March 4, 2004

Government determined to reach HIPC at all costs, President Mwanawasa says

Speaking at State House when visiting Norwegian Minister for International Development, Hilde Johnson, paid a courtesy call on him, President Mwanawasa said some discomfort would be caused to public service workers for non-increment of salaries in the public sector this year. According to the President, however, it was better for a few people who are employed to suffer for a little while in order for the majority of Zambians to benefit. Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president Leonard Hikaumba has maintained that workers are not ready to suffer because they have done so for a long time. He said the opposition had now taken advantage of the industrial unrest in the country to influence the labour unions.

President Mwanawasa said government was determined to reach the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC) completion point and that government leaders had made sacrifices to that effect. "Ministers, including myself, have made sacrifices by having a 30 per cent cut in salary. On my part that 30 per cent cut amounts to K 900,000, which is a lot of money in the Zambian context," he said. Mwanawasa said it was vital for Zambia to reach the HIPC completion point this year for the country to go back to the IMF-World Bank supported programmes. In his view, the labour movement and the public sector caused the industrial unrests in the country. "We were removed from the IMF supported programmes last year because we could not reach the HIPC completion point. So we have said this year, we should not miss the second chance," President Mwanawasa emphasised. He said there was need to work hard in order to redeem the economy and provide wealth to the majority of the Zambian people.

According to Mwanawasa domestic debt was also crippling the nation because whatever was made was only being channelled towards servicing the same debts. He said even the financial assistance that the country received from the donor community was immediately paid back to creditors. He furthermore pledged his government's commitment towards promoting good governance. "People should not continue to suffer because if they did, they will start to miss those bad old days of bad governance," President Mwanawasa said. And reacting to President Mwanawasa's statement on the expected hardship, Hikaumba said that the labour movement was not going to sacrifice any more because it had not seen any tangible results from such sacrifices. (The Post, Lusaka)

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