Zambia’s Finance and National Planning Minister Situmebeko Musokotwane has said Zambia will continue to aspire to be among the best economies in the world saying the recent reclassification by the World Bank as a middle income nation was indicative of the Government’s commitment to implement workable policies.
Dr Musokotwane said the reclassification by the World Bank reflected the political courage which the Government had embarked on since 1991 when economic reforms started.
Dr Musokotwane said during a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the economy had been growing since the year 2000 from per capita income of US$300 to over US$1,000.
“This is very good news and reward of so many reforms. Reforms are not easy as people are usually pessimistic about change. It has been a very hard process which took a lot of political courage,” he said.
In last week’s World Bank annual assessment of poor countries, Zambia was the 27th country to be re-classified since the year 2000 – ahead of Ghana at 28
Lower middle-income countries are those with per capita per capita gross national incomes (GNIs) of between $1,006 and 3,975 per year; while upper middle-income countries are those with GNIs between 3,976 and 12,275.
Dr Musokotwane said the fight to make Zambia a better place had not ended but that it was a starting point which was aimed at ensuring that the poverty gap between the rich and the poor was narrowed.
“The struggle does not end here. We have to aspire to be the best country in the world and we must continue with reforms,” he said.
Dr Musokotwane said the reclassification of Zambia as a middle income country would further boost the investment climate thereby creating wealth and jobs for the people.
In terms of financing, Dr Musokotwane said in the past Zambia could only access concessional loans which attracted very low interest rates and payable after a long time.
He said concessional finance was always limited and funding under the World Bank was to a tune of $70 million which was not sufficient for various developmental projects such as the construction of schools, hospital and roads.
He said with the new arrangement the government would be able to access non concessional financing to clear the back log of infrastructure development.
“We are now a hybrid country and in the next few years we expect investors to come in at a faster rate than now and that the growth will be sustained. Aid or donor assistance is going to come down and
if we sustain this, it will keep coming down,” he said. Dr Musokotwane said the Government was committed to create opportunities for the citizens as a way of getting them out of poverty.
He urged the citizens to take advantage of these opportunities in order to improve their lives.
Dr Musokotwane said disparity between the poor and the rich would always be there and existed even in developed countries but that the Government was working very hard to lessen the gap.
“This exists in all countries and even in the US. China too has people who are extremely poor. But it can be noted in the Zambian context that some people have been pulled out from poverty as per capita income has risen from $ 300 to $ 1000,” he said.
He said there was need to further reduce poverty but this should not be down by grabbing from the rich.
“If we continue on this path in the next five to 10 years we will make more progress,” he said.