Local News

LOANS OR MANNA?

GOVERNMENT must not allow itself to be taken for a ride by youths who were beneficiaries to the Higer Buses Empowerment Programme and are now failing to honour their debt.

They are coming up with all sorts of funny excuses to explain why they are failing to meet the K50, 000 monthly payment as agreed with Government in the first place.

We share the disappointment expressed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youths, Sports and Arts, Dr John Phiri over their failure to pay their debt.

The Higer Buses Empowerment Programme was a brainchild of the former Patriotic Front government designed to improve the livelihood of youths, particularly those in the passenger transport sector by giving them buses in form of loans.

The youth were encouraged to form cooperatives before they could be given the buses.  From our understanding, the buses they were given were all new.

But now, the youth who were empowered with the buses allege that they have difficulties to pay the ministry because the engines of the buses were faulty making them to spend more money on repairs.

Dr Phiri said the youth were not only being untruthful but also unfair to the government.

As Dr. Phiri noted in an interview, they have continued to operate despite having been directed to park the buses which means the buses are in good condition.

Government must put its foot down and impress upon the youth-run cooperatives that the money used to procure the buses came from State coffers and must be accounted for.

Moreover, the programme was meant to be used as a revolving fund and the failure to pay towards the buses means that other youths lose out – they will not benefit.

But then, this is what happens when empowerment programmes involving public funds are not thought through and end up benefitting only those aligned with the party in government.

It is a lesson that the UPND government must guard against even as it tries to empower the thousands of young people clamouring for empowerment schemes.

We note that the new dawn administration also talks about encouraging youths to form cooperatives so as to access some of the empowerment programmes lined up.

But the bottleneck here is that people are told to form cooperatives when they do not have a rudimentary understanding on how they work.  In this case however, there is no doubt that only the PF cadres benefitted – they never intended to pay back.

That is why the Higer Buses Empowerment Programme has become to be a big thorn in the flesh of Government.

Dr. Phiri said the ministry finds no truth in the complaint brought forward by the youth because despite the buses giving them problems they have continued to use them.  We agree.

As Dr Phiri noted, it is ironic that “ever since they started they have just cashed in K2, 500 for seven months, surely is that the way to proceed. It’s not fair to government.”

Hopefully, the new administration will learn from this, and put systems in place so that the beneficiaries do not view the empowerment funds as the biblical “Manna” from heaven.

As for the fiasco involving Higer buses, Government must not let the youth scot-free.  A way must be found to make them pay back, even if it means locking them up.

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