Monday, November 3, 2008

Zambia: Transportation Key to Economic Development

ONE indispensable support for modern economy is transport whichever way one looks at it.

In Zambia, road transportation accounts for over three quarters of cargo and passenger movement within and outside the country.

Be it timely ferrying of raw materials and inputs to sites and other locations or ferrying people to work on time, the function of transport cannot be under-estimated.

An efficient transport system ensures the smooth functioning of the economy and the opposite obtains when transportation is poor.

This is why in terms of priority, transportation ranks very high in many countries' priorities regardless of whether it is State-run transport or transport in private hands.

It cannot be denied that in as far as the transport sector is concerned in Zambia, a lot needs to be improved upon.

This is an ironical situation because the standard economics dogma about enterprise is that it performs well in private rather than State hands and the transport sector in Zambia is in private hands.

Comparisons between transport under the State and private hands throw up a number of sobering facts.

Many Zambians have perished on the roads from traffic accidents arising from drunkenness, carelessness, arrogance or sheer incompetence on the part of bus crews.

Passengers on privately run buses are made to travel long distances in discomfort because of overloading, which is done with impunity.

Bus crews are rude and uncooperative, subjecting travellers to a lot of abuse.

Part of this culture can of course be blamed on the transport operators themselves.

A lot of transport operators are in the habit of engaging unqualified personnel as a way of cutting down on operational costs.

Some crews are employed for less than two months before they are replaced.

This discourages commitment on the part of bus crews who feel they have no obligation to their employers or passengers.

As Transport Minister, Dora Siliya, has pointed out, the road transport sector should offer the citizenry an efficient and safe transport system that will contribute to transforming the country's economy.

This would only be achieved if operators transformed their business into a responsible and serious undertaking.

A mechanism needs to be worked out where all transport operators will be made to fulfill their role as stakeholders in the sector and not just in name, or Government would come up with heavy penalties for those found culpable.