Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, I am delighted to welcome you to State House for this Press conference. Through you, I hope to speak to the nation about where we are and where I think we should be going.
Friends, it is just slightly over three and a half years since the New Deal Government of MMD came into office.
I must confess, ladies and gentlemen, that these last three and a half years have been, in many respects, very difficult for the country. They have also been very difficult for me personally.
As I said when I was opening the 5th MMD Convention, over these years, I have certainly grown a lot older and hopefully wiser.
Ladies and gentlemen, the years have been very difficult for our country for many reasons which include the following: there was a drought the year that we came into office; the mining industry, which has always been the backbone of our economy was
collapsing; poverty and unemployment were of major concern to government and the nation; corruption was becoming a ‘natural’
way of life for many of our people in public office; our nation was, until recently, still trapped in the disputes of whether the elections were free and fair; and just a few months ago, our country suffered a period of one fatal accident after another, losing many invaluable lives. There has also been industrial instability caused mainly by alleged inadequate pay but sometimes incited by politics. As if these were not enough there has been the issue of Constitutional review and process and this has caused a lot of acrimony in the nation.
Personally, I think the years have been very difficult for, among many others, the following reasons: I came into office with many people not expecting me to be my own person; I have lost a number of very close relations, including my mother, three
brothers and a step mother since I came into office; and I have had to live with the fact of losing many friends and increasing the number of my enemies through the fundamental decision I made to initiate and stick to the fight against corruption. The number of enemies increased further because although we have improved our economy to a level which is humanly possible, this has not pleased my opponents who would have wished that we did not succeed. Further, not everybody in our nation has so far benefited from the achievements made so far and most of our people still wallow in poverty.
In spite of the difficult times we have had, there have also been many moments of joy and success: we have qualified for the HIPC initiative and total debt cancellation, bringing down our total international debt to less than US$3 billion with a further
reduction to be determined after the G8 decisions implementation modalities have been clarified. We have nurtured a new lease of
life in our mining industry, making North Western Province our “New Copperbelt” and contributing 14% to our economy in 2004
as compared to 3.4% in 2003. Our agriculture sector is performing very well, assuring us of our capacity for food self-sufficiency; our tourism industry is doing better than before contributing 6.4% in 2004 as against 4.9% in 2002; and our bold decision to provide free Anti Retroviral drugs will soon be paying dividends with an increase in the number of people accessing the life saving drugs from 10,000 last year to current figure of over 30,000 with a target of reaching 100,000 by end this year. I understand that we may not reach this target due to a number of constraints but still my administration is working hard to advance to that target.