Embassies  Are  Wrong  to  Congratulate  the  PF’s  One-­‐Party  State  Subsidy  

Open  Letter  to  His  Excellency  Akio  Egawa,  Ambassador  of  Japan  to  Zambia,  His   Excellency  Mark  Storella,  Ambassador  of  the  United  States  to  Zambia,  and  His   Excellency  James  Thornton,  High  Commissioner  of  the  United  Kingdom  to   Zambia   June  6,  2013   Your  Excellencies,   We  respectfully  address  this  open  letter  toward  your  distinguished  offices  with   regard  to  recent  commentary  published  in  the  Zambian  media  on  the  recent   removal  of  fuel  and  maize  subsidies  by  the  Patriotic  Front  (PF)  government.         On  May  21,  His  Excellency  Ambassador  Storella  was  quoted  as  saying  “Right  now   your  government  is  making  hard  decisions  on  agriculture  and  government  had  to   make  these  hard  decisions  because  you  cannot  keep  on  subsiding  maize  forever   because  the  country  can  go  bankrupt  and,  ultimately,  farmers  too.”1     On  May  23,  the  Times  of  Zambia  quoted  His  Excellency  Ambassador  Egawa,   commenting  “Government  has  made  a  tough  decision  which  may  cause  pain  on   the  part  of  the  public  but  will  contribute  to  the  welfare  of  the  people  in  the  long   term.”2     His  Excellency  High  Commissioner  Thorton  was  similarly  quoted  on  June  4  as   saying  “I  commend  the  Government  of  Zambia  for  tackling  these  subsidies.  (…)    It   is  better  that  money  currently  used  for  subsidies  is  used  for  more  sustainable  

                                                                                                                         
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 See:    http://www.mwebantu.com/2013/05/21/american-­‐ambassador-­‐mark-­‐storella-­‐ supports-­‐subsidies-­‐removals/   2  See:    http://www.times.co.zm/?p=12606  
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measures  targeted  to  help  the  really  poor  and  to  promote  development  in   Zambia.”3 On  behalf  of  numerous  Zambian  citizens,  including  members  of  opposition   parties  and  civil  society  organisations,  the  Coalition  for  the  Defence  of   Democratic  Rights  (CDDR)  wishes  to  register  its  disappointment  with  these   statements,  which  may  be  based  on  mistaken  assumptions  regarding  the   motivations  of  the  PF  government.    The  CDDR  requests  that  the  diplomatic   community  take  a  stronger  stance  toward  the  deteriorating  environment  for  civil   and  human  rights  in  Zambia,  rather  than  solely  focusing  on  economic  policy.   It  is  not  our  intention  to  enter  into  a  debate  over  the  short-­‐  and  long-­‐term  costs   of  maintaining  subsidies,  and  generally,  we  acknowledge  the  common  sense   notion  that  principles  of  unfettered  market  competition  tend  to  produce  the   ideal  efficiencies  that  eventually  deliver  the  lowest  prices  to  the  poor.   However,  it  is  a  grave  mistake  to  assume  that  the  PF  has  undertaken  this  policy   out  of  a  desire  to  implement  reforms  or  achieve  any  sort  of  efficiency.    It  is  also  a   mistake  to  assume  that  funds  saved  from  the  cancellation  of  these  subsidies  will   be  applied  to  development.   The  truth  of  the  matter  is  that  the  fuel  and  maize  subsidies  have  not  actually   been  removed,  but  rather  they  have  been  transformed  by  the  PF  into  the  One-­‐ Party  State  Subsidy.   Far  from  running  an  austerity  programme  of  reform,  the  PF  government  has   spent  prolifically  since  coming  into  power  in  2011.    For  the  65%  of  Zambia’s  13   million  citizens  who  live  on  less  than  $1.25  a  day,  it  is  not  comprehensible  how   they  should  be  chosen  to  carry  the  burden  while  at  the  same  time  the  president  

 

                                                                                                                         
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 See:    http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/british-­‐high-­‐commishiner-­‐support-­‐pf-­‐on-­‐ subsidises/comment-­‐page-­‐2/  

 

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can  give  himself  and  his  cabinet  salary  increases  of  100%,4  initiate  a  re-­‐ nationalization  and  expropriation  spree  of  numerous  private  companies,5  while   at  the  same  time  engineering  an  unprecedented  10  parliamentary  by-­‐elections,   with  more  to  come.   The  sudden  removal  of  fuel  and  maize  subsidies  by  the  PF  is  not  a  question  of   economics.    It  is  a  question  of  how  the  ruling  party  intends  to  fund  its  destruction   of  Zambian  democracy.   It  is  unreasonable  for  foreign  governments  to  ‘congratulate’  the  PF  on  fiscal   policy  at  a  moment  in  which  the  president’s  cabinet  is  bloated  to  more  than  70   members.    There  extraordinary  costs  of  keeping  so  many  deputy  ministers,  many   of  whom  are  said  to  not  even  bother  reporting  to  office  and  function  more  as   ‘ghost  bureaucrats.’    Each  of  these  deputy  ministers  is  given  a  brand  new  car,   support  staff,  travel  allowances,  fuel  allowance,  a  house  or  accommodation   allowance  and  other  financial  disbursements,  costing  Zambian  taxpayers  millions   of  dollars.   The  main  reason  why  the  PF  has  created  the  largest  cabinet  in  the  history  of  the   Third  Republic  is  because  the  awarding  of  these  positions  represents  the  key   instrument  of  bribery  to  engineer  the  defection  of  opposition  Members  of   Parliament  from  the  Movement  for  Multiparty  Democracy  (MMD)  and  the  United   Party  for  National  Development  (UPND)  to  the  PF,  thus  forcing  the  vacation  of   the  seat  and  triggering  a  costly  by-­‐election  which  is  usually  snapped  up  by  the   ruling  party.   The  PF’s  by-­‐elections  strategy,  which  is  aimed  at  taking  over  a  rubber-­‐stamp   majority  in  the  National  Assembly  in  order  to  pass  a  new  constitution  to  re-­‐
                                                                                                                         
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 See:    http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/sata-­‐and-­‐his-­‐ministers-­‐increase-­‐their-­‐ salaries-­‐discreetly/   5 The  PF  government  has  re-­‐nationalized  Zamtel  in  a  highly  irregular  takeover,  while  also   revoking  the  private  concession  for  the  operation  of  Zambia  Railways,  and  has  seized   control  over  the  Collum  Coal  mine,  while  also  threatening  to  take  over  numerous  other   privately  owned  businesses.  
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implement  the  one-­‐party  state,  is  enormously  expensive  and  has  drained  state   coffers  to  the  point  that  the  leadership  has  ‘improvised’  –  not  planned  –  the   cancellation  of  fuel  and  maize  subsidies.   According  to  the  Electoral  Commission  of  Zambia  (ECZ),  the  cost  of  holding  these   by-­‐elections  ranges  anywhere  from  a  minimum  of  5  billion  kwacha  to  a   staggering  11  billion  kwacha.    The  upcoming  by-­‐election  in  Feira  will  cost  7.7   billion  kwacha,  while  on  July  25  there  will  be  another  four  by-­‐elections  in  Solwezi   East,  Kafulafuta,  Chipata  Central  and  Mkushi  North.6   The  PF  government  is  facing  budget  shortfalls  due  in  part  to  the  ad  hoc  creation   of  unplanned  and  unbudgeted  new  districts  and  ministries  for  political   expediency  (and  ‘bribery’  of  opposition  MPs)  which  is  draining  the  treasury.   The  Ambassadors  comment  that  it  was  ‘brave’  or  ‘difficult’  for  the  PF  to  remove   the  subsidies.    However  that  is  not  the  case.       We  ask  that  you  consider  the  reasons  behind  the  extreme  haste  and  total  lack  of   preparation  or  communication  regarding  the  cancellation  of  subsidies,  especially   with  regard  to  the  social  consequences.    When  the  fuel  subsidy  was  removed  in   April,  prices  shot  up  21  per  cent,  while  workers  commuting  to  Lusaka  saw  at  least   a  1  kwacha  increase  in  minibus  fares  –  posing  a  sizable  cut  into  the  weekly  salary   for  many  poor  people.    As  for  mealie-­‐meal  prices,  which  have  more  than  doubled   since  the  election  of  the  PF,7  real  issues  of  starvation  and  food  riots  may  soon   become  a  reality  in  many  parts  of  the  nation,  with  no  provisions  made  by  the   government  to  protect  the  most  vulnerable.   Were  it  possible  for  the  United  States  to  suddenly  curtail  the  staggering  $84.4   billion  they  have  spent  on  corn  subsidies  between  1995  and  2012,8  it  would  most   likely  be  done  in  a  carefully  staged  and  planned  manner,  as  to  avoid  a  shock  to  
                                                                                                                         
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 See:    http://www.ukzambians.co.uk/home/2013/05/18/bye-­‐elections-­‐cost-­‐billions-­‐ says-­‐ecz/   7  See:    http://www.postzambia.com/post-­‐read_article.php?articleId=32665   8  See:    http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=corn  
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the  producers.    If  the  United  Kingdom  were  to  cancel  just  one  of  the  £3.5  billion   subsidy  programmes  that  it  pays  out  to  wealthy  landowners,  it  surely  would  not   disappear  overnight  without  a  plan.9    Japan’s  economic  miracle  of  the  past   century  is  widely  credited  to  its  statist  policies  of  subsidies  for  steel,  machinery,   electronics,  chemicals,  autos,  shipbuilding,  and  aircraft  industries.10 But  in  Zambia,  where  the  subsidy  removal  has  an  immediate  impact  on  citizens,   not  just  producers,  there  has  been  no  plan,  preparation,  or  explanation,  which   has  alarmed  not  just  civil  society  organisations,  but  also  industry.   According  to  a  detailed  statement  by  the  Zambia  National  Farmers’  Union   (ZNFU),  while  although  they  do  not  support  subsidies  on  the  consumption  side,   the  way  in  which  the  PF  has  removed  these  programmes  without  any  clear  plan   may  lead  to  deeper  problems:   “It  is  very  easy  to  remove  subsidies  because  anyone  can  do  it  but  what  is   simultaneously  and  urgently  required  is  to  put  in  place  bridging  measures   to  avert  a  food  security  calamity  and  more  importantly  to  find  solutions  to   the  challenges  facing  our  poor  small  scale  farmers  in  the  rural  areas  in   order  to  keep  them  alive.  An  in-­‐depth  analysis  and  full  appreciation  of   what  it  takes  to  be  a  farmer  in  a  rural  area  where  basic  social  amenities   and  services  are  nearly  absent  and  even  sophisticated  business  models  flop   should  have  been  done,  and  in  full  consultation  and  dialogue  with  those   that  such  a  decision  was  going  to  affect.”11       Finally  and  most  importantly,  the  CDDR  wishes  to  make    Your  Excellencies  aware   that  many  Zambian  citizens  are  deeply  disappointed  with  the  diplomatic  
                                                                                                                         
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 See:    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-­‐17225652  See:    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/11/lie_of_the_tiger   11  See:     http://www.znfu.org.zm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=626:znfu-­‐ reaction-­‐to-­‐the-­‐changes-­‐introduced-­‐by-­‐the-­‐government-­‐on-­‐the-­‐farmer-­‐input-­‐support-­‐ programme-­‐and-­‐the-­‐food-­‐reserve-­‐agency-­‐for-­‐the-­‐2013-­‐marketing-­‐season-­‐and-­‐ beyond&catid=46:press-­‐statements&Itemid=67  
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community’s  failure  to  respond  to  a  recent  violent  attack  on  a  church  in  Matero   by  an  alleged  PF-­‐organised  militia.    Civil  society  organisations  such  as  the   Foundation  for  Democratic  Process  (FODEP)  and  the  Young  African  Leaders   Initiative  (YALI),  as  well  as  opposition  party  members  had  only  gathered  in  this   church  because  the  PF  denied  their  constitutional  rights  to  organize  an  outdoor   assembly  under  the  Public  Order  Act.    Then  further  to  be  violently  attacked  by  a   PF  militia  simply  for  debating  the  issue  of  subsidy  removal  further  represents  a   flagrant  violation  of  basic  human  rights  that  this  government  has  become  known   for.   To  be  silent  in  the  face  of  these  violent  incidences,  but  then  only  to  come  forward   and  praise  the  government  for  recklessly  endangering  the  lives  of  Zambia’s   poorest  citizens  in  order  to  fund  their  takeover  of  every  branch  of  government,  is   not  helpful  for  the  future  of  democracy  in  Zambia.   We  understand  that  the  principle  of  subsidy  removal  may  be  positive,  but  the   reality  is  that  this  move  is  not  going  to  produce  any  decrease  in  government   spending  in  Zambia  or  improve  balance  of  payments,  but  rather  only  re-­‐direct   this  portion  of  the  budget  toward  highly  questionable  political  objectives  to   benefit  the  private  interests  of  a  very  small  coterie  of  ruling  elites  who  are   already  in  control  of  the  main  newspaper  and  one  of  the  country’s  largest  banks.     The  sudden  appearance  of  trained  militias  is  but  one  product  of  the  one-­‐party   state  subsidy.   While  recognizing  the  importance  of  strong  bilateral  relationships  between   Zambia  and  Japan,  U.S.,  and  U.K.,  and  underscoring  our  continued  commitment   to  cooperation  and  communication  with  your  offices,  we  hereby  respectfully   request  that  the  diplomatic  community  remain  vigilant  to  the  abuses  of  power  by   the  current  Zambian  leadership  and  cognizant  of  the  fragile  condition  of   democratic  freedoms  in  Zambia.   Yours  faithfully,  

 

 

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  Robert  R.  Amsterdam   International  Counsel  to  the  Coalition  for  the  Defence  of  Democratic  Rights   (CDDR)  

 

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