Presenting the 2017 budget, finance minister Felix Mutati warned that “the gravity of the state of our economy requires that we immediately put in place bold measures that will stabilise and grow our economy”. And that in this regard, “our macro-economic objectives for 2017 will be to”, among other things, “support the creation of at least 100,000 decent jobs”.
Mutati is talking about “the creation of at least 100,000 decent jobs”. Contrast this with what his boss, Edgar Lungu, said when officially opening the first session of the 12th National Assembly on September 30: “In the next five years, my government will, through the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation), target to create a total of one million jobs in the growth areas of manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, tourism and Information and Communication Technology in line with the PF manifesto pledge on industrialisation.” This translates into 200,000 jobs per annum. This is double the number of jobs Mutati is promising to create in 2017. Why is there such a gigantic difference in what the two are promising? Are they working on the same data or projections? Or each one of them has his own source of information? Who should we believe – the President or the Minister of Finance? If we had a choice and only one choice, we would be more inclined to believe what the Minister of Finance is saying than what the President is telling us.
This is not only because the Ministry of Finance is better informed on economic matters than the President. This is so because Mutati has not in any way attempted to paint a bright picture of a situation that is so dark. He has been relatively more honest about the state of the economy than any member of this government. Edgar, on his part, has been trying very hard to paint a bright picture of the situation. Mutati has been very clear about the state of our economy and has been using a language that is unequivocal – these are “turbulent times”; “turning the economy around requires that we make hard choices and implement difficult reforms”; “we are all agreed that the task of restoring stability and accelerating growth will not be easy”; “we have to be bold and decisive; “only unity and hard work will help us overcome the current challenges for a shared prosperity; “we are alive to the fact that the hard choices we are making will have consequences on our society, especially the vulnerable”; “the economic environment in which the 2017 budget will be implemented will be challenging”; and so on and so forth.
In these clearly difficult times, there is need for honesty and sincerity. The temptation to tell lies and promise people all sorts of good things in an attempt to maintain their political support can be very high. But again, as Amilcar Cabral warned, “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…” We are also further advised to always bear in mind that the people are not looking for or waiting to hear about the jobs one is dreaming about in his head. What they are seeking from the economy of this country is material benefits; they want to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children and their children’s children and so on and so forth.
We are not going to create jobs by empty declarations, promises or projections. No matter how much we dream, promise about jobs they won’t just come like that. We have to seriously plan and work for jobs. There’s no need to make promises about creating jobs that one knows very well will not be able to create. There’s no need to unnecessarily raise people’s hopes for jobs that won’t come. It’s always better to promise less and give more than to promise more and give less or nothing.
And moreover, jobs are not something to play games with or politic about. For most of our people jobs are a matter of life and death because the only way they can earn a living is through finding employment. And in order to derive a benefit from an economy, people must be able to participate in it; and for most people, the primary means of economic participation is through work. If they don’t have jobs they can’t participate, they are out and may die because the only way a worker can earn a living is through the sale of his labour. Indeed throughout human history it has been a basic norm that all are expected to work, thereby to contribute to the economy.
And there’s more to the issue of jobs than just its economic and social value. To deny a human being a job is to rob him of human dignity. This is so because through work, we cooperate with the Creator in bringing to fulfilment the created world; we exercise our God-given abilities and talents as co-workers with God in the great task of transforming the material world.Therefore, work is a vital part of our humanity, the manifestation of our creativity, an opportunity of our growth and fulfilment. Indeed, work is nothing less than a constituent dimension of the purpose for which the world was created and for which we ourselves were brought into being. This being the case it is immoral, in human and a great betrayal for one to tell lies, mock people about jobs. It is clear that Edgar’s government has not been honest about the issue of jobs. They have been promising the desperate Zambian people jobs they are not able to create just to win their votes and political support. But the consequences of all these lies, deception about jobs will soon catch up with them.