Remarks by Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia on the launch and dissemination of the Economic Recovery Programme (2020-2023)

The UN Country Team in Zambia has been active and has worked alongside the Government in its efforts to address the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19.

  • H.E. Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia
  • Honorable Minister of Finance,
  • Honorable Minister of National Development Planning,
  • Honorable Members of the National Assembly,
  • Distinguished Members of the Government of the Republic of Zambia,
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners,
  • Heads of Cooperation and Development Partners
  • The Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme,
  • Representatives from the UN System in Zambia
  • Members of the civil society and the media fraternity
  • Distinguished Guests
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me to be with you today on behalf of the United Nations Development System in Zambia, and in my own capacity to witness the launch of the Economic Recovery Programme.

As you are all aware, we are approaching the end of a very challenging year for the entire world: The corona virus disease (COVID-19) has had a catastrophic impact everywhere with more than 67 million confirmed cases and over a million and half-lives lost over the course of 2020. This situation has affected the economic prospects for most countries, especially developing economies like Zambia, which are more vulnerable to economic shocks. With the global economy expected to shrink in 2020, there is need for the countries to come up with measures that would mitigate the effects of the pandemic, foster growth and safeguard livelihoods.

Looking inwards, Zambia has not been spared by the COVID-19, and the pandemic’s effects and impact are not strange to anyone. Lives have been lost, schools were closed; hotels, restaurants, places or worship, factories, and workshops were closed; trade, wholesale and retail industries where nearly shut with massive labour releases and widespread unemployment throughout the country. And this list could go on and on.

These unprecedented facts come at a time when Zambians go through several challenges which have resulted in a subdued economic growth and increased economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities, including those brought by climate change effects, being drought and floods. COVID-19 has indeed worsened the constraints the country has been facing and has the potential to negate the efforts being implemented to steer the economy back to a positive growth trajectory, capable of delivering Zambia’s constitutional obligations, including the progress towards the achievement of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The well-intended preventive measures across the globe, undoubtedly exacerbated existing vulnerability of disadvantaged population groups such as the elderly, people living with disabilities, people living with HIV, women, youth, poor households, refugee and migrants.

The United Nations has classified the COVID-19 pandemic as more than just a health crisis, but as a socio economic, humanitarian, security, and a human rights crisis which has affected everyone everywhere. In Zambia, the immediate preparation and seamless implementation of the COVID-19 Multisectoral Response and Preparedness Plan by the Government of Zambia is highly commendable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authorities for the pragmatic approach taken in responding to the pandemic.

The UN Country Team in Zambia has been active and has worked alongside the Government in its efforts to address the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19, targeting the most affected and the vulnerable so that they can weather the crisis and even bounce back better and faster and even go beyond. In support  of the government, we kick-started the implementation of the UN Socio-Economic Response Plan as a direct contribution to the government-led COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Contingency Response.

The UN COVID-19 Socio-economic Response Plan is set to deliver on five pillars, aiming to:

  • Help comprehensively protect the regular health system and services during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Protect people through social protection programmes and basic services.
  • Protect jobs, small and medium-sized enterprises and vulnerable workers in the informal sector through economic recovery;
  • Help guide the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus to make the macroeconomic framework work for the most vulnerable and foster sustainable development and strengthen multilateral and regional responses;
  • Promote social cohesion and build trust through social dialogue and political engagement and invest in community-led resilience.

We view the UN Socio-Economic Response Plan as a living tool that provides avenues to engage with the government beyond the response but to chart the recovery pathways, including the Economic Recovery Programme that we launch here today.

One of the key response points that the UN has prioritized is through the promotion of transformative recovery process for a better post-COVID-19 world. This is to be done through addressing underlying fragilities and identifying opportunities for transformative change towards more just, equal and resilient societies and economies.

To this effect, the UN in close consultation with the Government, through the Ministry of National Development Planning, has acknowledged the need to support coordinated Government-led COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessments. Let me name a few, the UN has supported assessments focusing on (i) Households as part of a Living Conditions Monitoring Survey implemented by ZAMSTATS, (ii) informal sector, people with disabilities, women etc. In addition, the UN system at the request of the Government and under the leadership of the Ministry of National Development Planning, is about to undertake a COVID-19 Recovery Needs Assessment or CRNA, which is a standard tool adapted from the Post-Disaster Need Assessment methodology jointly developed and used across the globe for the past decades by the World Bank, the European Union and the UN.

In this COVID-19 pandemic, this methodology has worked as a good practice for informing economic recovery efforts in a few countries were the assessment has been undertaken.

We welcome the government’s endorsement of this methodology and will work towards the delivery of the required support.

The CRNA is expected to provide a supplementary robust analysis and entry points to operationalise the GRZ Economic Recovery Programme and formulate joint relevant socio-economic recovery interventions for the period 2020-2022. In addition, it is hoped that the CRNA will provide opportunities for policy dialogue and strategic discussions that can inform the content and direction of the successor National Development Plan (8NDP);

The Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) 2020-2023 that we launch here today brings together a set of necessary multisectoral policies and interventions aimed at restoring and building back better the economy in order to deliver on the national priorities. The Economic Recovery Programme will, therefore, focus on addressing the weaknesses observed in recent years, and building on lessons learnt in order to foster meaningful benefits at both macro and micro levels. We have had the privilege to support the preparation of the Economic Recovery Programme and noted the programme’s purpose and focus on ensuring that macroeconomic stability and growth and economic diversification are restored.

We are cognisant of the government’s efforts towards ensuring that fiscal and debt sustainability are restored as only with these can Zambia better protect and deliver on social protection spending and the SDGs.

In closing, I wish to note that the Economic Recovery Programme comes at a time when the formulation of the Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP) is underway, and as an active partner of the government and the people of Zambia, the UN remains committed to support the implementation of the Economic Recovery Programme as well as the broad objectives of the 7NDP and its successor, the 8NDP.

I thank you

Speech by
Author
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNDP
United Nations Development Programme