Zambia must improve mine revenue collection

ZAMBIA will not get meaningful benefits from the mining sector unless revenue collection is improved to create a mineral resource stabilisation fund that can be used to develop other economic sectors, says Dr Mathias Mphande. 
And information permanent secretary Amos Malupenga has advised newsroom managers in the SADC region to encourage specialisation so that journalists can highlight other issues beyond politics. 
Speaking yesterday in Lusaka at the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) regional media training on how to report on extractive industries, Dr Mphande from the University of Zambia said there was poverty in countries with mineral wealth. 
"How to benefit from the mining sector depends on choices you make as a country and mining is capital intensive and requires sufficient investments which can take the entire government funding if nationalisation is put in place. So since mining capital is mainly foreign, the only linkage the mines have on the local economies is through taxes," Dr Mphande said. 
"So government should find ways of maximising revenue collection from the mines. But even when taxes are captured effectively, governments and its civil servants spend these monies in a greedy manner such that the social welfare of the people is not improved. 
What can Zambia show for the huge taxes the government gets when patients are still sleeping on the floor at UTH and university students are still squatting and learning with few teaching aids, yet advocates of better taxes are called 'lunatics' by government officials." 
He observed that countries rich in minerals usually showed poor economic indicators. 
"Kenya, which predominantly doesn't produce minerals, has better economic indicators than Zambia, and Peru, which is rich in minerals, is poor compared to Brazil, a non-mining country, while Ivory Coast doesn't have minerals, but its economy is better than oil-producing Nigeria," said Dr Mphande. 
And SARW director Claude Kabemba said the media should start telling stories about the extractive industries. 
"The local media has not articulated problems faced in this sector and most stories written about the industries are products of external influence," he said. 
And Malupenga said the media cannot educate and inform people if they were not well informed themselves. 
"There is tendency to cover more of politics because it is easier, but journalists should diversify their thinking and go beyond politics and this training is also a reminder to newsroom managers across the region on the need to encourage specialisation so that journalists can report issues with depth, fluency and authority," said Malupenga.