Where are the jobs Lungu promised you?

Where are the jobs Lungu promised you?

In 2015 during the launch of the National Youth Policy in Lusaka, Edgar Lungu promised to create 500,000 by August 2016.

In November 2015, Edgar promised to create 10,000 jobs for the people of the Copperbelt.

On August 1, 2016, at the reopening of the Mulungushi Textiles in Kabwe, Edgar promised to create 20,000 jobs for this former old mining town in five years.

And during the opening of Parliament on September 30, 2016, Edgar said the Patriotic Front government will in the next five years create a million jobs through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). A million jobs in five years translates into 200,000 jobs per annum. Edgar said to achieve this, the government would use growth areas of agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, manufacturing and information and communication technology in line with the Patriotic Front manifesto which pledges industrialisation.

Many months have passed since those promises were made and there is very little, if not nothing, to show in terms of job creation. One wonders who was giving Edgar those job figures! Were they dreaming? Or was it a deliberate ploy to hoodwink the Zambian voters into thinking their joblessness will go away if they vote for him?

All our economic indicators show that jobs will not be easy to come by. Even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says despite falling unemployment levels in some developed economies, its analysis – World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) – shows the global job crisis is not likely to end, especially in emerging economies. “Continuing high rates of unemployment worldwide and chronic vulnerable employment in many emerging and developing economies are still deeply affecting the world of work,” warns a new ILO report. “The significant slowdown in emerging economies, coupled with a sharp decline in commodity prices, is having a dramatic effect on the world of work. The unstable economic environment associated with volatile capital flows, still dysfunctional financial markets and the shortage of global demand continue to affect enterprises and deter investment and job creation.” So, on what is Edgar basing his high job creation projections?

Again, it’s always better to tell the people the truth and prepare them for the difficulties ahead. The issue of jobs is not something to play cheap politics with. We already have a very high unemployment rate which should be giving responsible and caring political leaders sleepless nights. And it is important to understand what a high unemployment rate means and its consequences if not properly and adequately addressed. A high unemployment rate is often a result of a slow economy. As economic activity improves, companies require additional workers, and unemployment falls. If unemployment remains high for an extended period, it may become structural, resulting in a myriad of problems.

As we have stated before, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves that the mines will give us many new jobs. Technology has changed. Mining investments will no longer come with the thousands and thousands of jobs they used to come with many decades ago. Today, one small excavator costing less than US$200,000 can take over the jobs of thousands of workers in a more cost-effective, efficient and orderly manner. An excavator doesn’t need to go on any type of leave, doesn’t attend funerals, and so on and so forth. It also doesn’t belong to a trade union. So, if we are hoping for the mines to reduce our unemployment rate, we better think twice. Edgar is talking of manufacturing under the IDC! What manufacturing is the IDC going to come up with in this country, which they have turned into a huge supermarket for imported South African goods? All they should hope for in terms of employment is a few shop attendants in the South African owned supermarkets. Tourism! What is there or what will be there to create the number of jobs Edgar is talking about? Yes, there is potential in tourism but there is no potential in this type of tourism that Edgar’s government is engaged in.

In the last two decades, the financial services sector created a number of good jobs. But these jobs are no longer increasing; they are declining. ATMs are taking over the jobs of bank tellers or clerks. Banks are no longer opening new branches because it is uneconomical to do so. They are instead putting ATMs everywhere, even at churches.

To create jobs will require a totally different approach to economic management by those in government. Government expenditure is being shared by tenderpreneurs who get government contracts to import things for government at very exorbitant prices, making gigantic super profits. These are not people who are running factories to manufacture anything. But they are the suppliers of goods manufactured elsewhere to government. Instead of government expenditure supporting manufacturing and helping to create jobs in Zambia, it is helping to create jobs in South Africa and elsewhere. Is Edgar’s government able to change this? The answer is a categorical no. This is so because this is a government of tenderpreneurs united by government contracts. You take away that, they crumble. Look at what they are doing to the petroleum industry! Instead of promoting the importation and processing of crude oil in Zambia and create more jobs, they are focusing on importing finished petroleum products. Why? To make money for themselves! They are the main importers of petroleum products in the country using all sorts of fronts. And for that, they are ready to sacrifice all the jobs that go with processing crude oil.

Clearly, there will be no such jobs to be created by Edgar and his government. Just start bracing yourselves for very high levels of unemployment and its consequences.