Category: Opinions

We are in real danger of extinction

We are in real danger of extinction Featured

We are really in danger of extinction if we don’t take this issue of global warming very, very seriously. It’s no joke. An important biological species — humankind — is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it. It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction. They were spawned by the former colonial metropolis. They are the offspring of imperial policies which, in turn, brought forth the backwardness and poverty that have become the scourge for the great majority of humankind.

With only 20 per cent of the world’s population, they consume two-thirds of all metals and three-fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have polluted the air. They have weakened and perforated the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer. The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed every year into the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of nature. Third World countries, yesterday’s colonies and today nations exploited and plundered by an unjust international economic order, cannot be blamed for all this.

The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it the most. Because today, everything that contributes to underdevelopment and poverty is a flagrant rape of the environment. As a result, tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in the Third World, more than in each of the two world wars. Unequal trade, protectionism and the foreign debt assault the ecological balance and promote the destruction of the environment. If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technologies must be distributed better throughout the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world.

Stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment. Make human life more rational. Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity. Enough of selfishness. Enough of schemes of domination. Enough of insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit. Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.

Over and over at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, world leaders stressed the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The 2015 Paris Agreement commits countries to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C. Scientists have warned that crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.

Preventing it requires almost halving global CO2 emissions by 2030 from 2010 levels and cutting them to net-zero by 2050 — an ambitious task that scientists, financiers, negotiators and activists at COP26 are debating how to achieve and pay for. But what is the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming? Already, the world has heated to around 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each of the last four decades was hotter than any decade since 1850. We never had such a global warming in only a few decades. Half a degree means much more extreme weather, and it can be more often, more intense, or extended in duration.

Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe. More warming to 1.5°C and beyond will worsen such impacts. For every increment of global warming, changes in extremes become larger.For example, heatwaves would become both more frequent and more severe. An extreme heat event that occurred once per decade in a climate without human influence, would happen 4.1 times a decade at 1.5°C of warming, and 5.6 times at 2°C, according to the U.N. climate science panel (IPCC).
Let warming spiral to 4°C, and such an event could occur 9.4 times per decade.

A warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, resulting in more extreme rainfall that raises flood risks. It also increases evaporation, leading to more intense droughts.
The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is critical for Earth’s oceans and frozen regions. At 1.5°C, there’s a good chance we can prevent most of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheet from collapsing.
That would help limit sea level rise to a few feet by the end of the century – still a big change that would erode coastlines and inundate some small island states and coastal cities. But blow past 2°C and the ice sheets could collapse with sea levels rising up to 10 metres – though how quickly that could happen is uncertain.
Warming of 1.5°C would destroy at least 70 per cent of coral reefs, but at 2°C more than 99 per cent would be lost. That would destroy fish habitats and communities that rely on reefs for their food and livelihoods. Warming of 2°C, versus 1.5°C, would also increase the impact on food production.

If you have crop failures in a couple of the breadbaskets of the world at the same time, then you could see extreme food price spikes and hunger and famine across wide swathes of the world.
A warmer world could see the mosquitoes that carry diseases such as malaria and dengue fever expand across a wider range. But 2°C would also see a bigger share of insects and animals lose most of their habitat range, compared with 1.5°C, and increase the risk of forest fires – another risk to wildlife.

As the world heats up, the risk increases that the planet will reach tipping points where Earth’s systems cross a threshold that triggers irreversible or cascading impacts. Exactly when those points would be reached is uncertain. Droughts, reduced rainfall, and continued destruction of the Amazon through deforestation, for example, could see the rainforest system collapse, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere rather than storing it. Or warming Arctic permafrost could cause long-frozen biomass to decompose, releasing vast amount of carbon emissions. That’s why it’s so risky to keep emitting from fossil fuels because we’re increasing the likelihood that we go over one of those tipping points.

So far, the climate pledges that countries have submitted to the United Nations’ registry of pledges put the world on track for 2.7°C of warming. The International Energy Agency says that new promises announced at the COP26 summit – if implemented – could hold warming to below 1.8°C, although some experts challenged that calculation. It remains to be seen whether those promises will translate into real-world action.

Warming of 2.7°C would deliver unliveable heat for parts of the year across areas of the tropics and subtropics. Biodiversity would be enormously depleted, food security would drop, and extreme weather would exceed most urban infrastructure’s capacity to cope.
If we can keep warming below 3°C we likely remain within our adaptive capacity as a civilisation, but at 2.7°C warming we would experience great hardship.

Fred M’membe

Climate change is a very serious religious issue

Climate change is a very serious religious issue Featured

Following last week’s COP26 in Glasgow the issue of climate change is still very much on my mind. And this Sunday I turn to the religious for leadership and guidance on this very serious and urgent challenge facing humanity.

There is a long history of religious thinking and attention to the role of humans as stewards of the earth and the environment. These theological underpinnings stem from the idea that God created earth and humans, therefore, God’s children have a responsibility to care for his creations. This perspective is shared across a number of faiths.

In June 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical urging Catholics and all people on earth to focus on a broad range of issues and problems in the environment including pollution, climate change, biodiversity and global inequality of ecological systems.In February 2006, a group of 86 evangelical leaders, under the auspices of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, challenged the Bush administration on global warming. Other religious groups and leaders in the USA, and other countries, have taken positions as well.

A robust policy strategy – regarding support in the religious community – should pay careful attention to the effects of both climate change and climate policy on the poor in both developing nations and the developed world itself. Understanding the cultural dimensions of climate change requires understanding its religious aspects. Insofar as climate change is entangled with humans, it is also entangled with all the ways in which religion attends human ways of being.

Religious leaders should continue to call for bold action in defense of God’s creation.Pope Francis, who attended the Earth Day summit, encouraged the leaders of the world’s largest economies to “take charge of the care of nature, of this gift that we have received and that we have to heal, guard, and carry forward.” These words are increasingly significant because of the challenge the world faces. As Pope Francis said, “We need to keep moving forward and we know that one doesn’t come out of a crisis the same way one entered. We come out either better or worse. Our concern is to see that the environment is cleaner, purer, and preserved. We must take care of nature so that it takes care of us.”Meeting the scale and scope of the climate crisis will require all religious leaders and activists, along with political leaders of all faiths and no faith, to unite around climate justice priorities.

The moral case to address the climate crisis is resounding in faith communities around the world. It’s up to political leaders to make the investments and changes necessary to safeguard and secure humanity’s survival and protect God’s creation.

Fred M’membe

Our initial brief reaction to the 2022 Budget

Our initial brief reaction to the 2022 Budget Featured

From their posturing, boasting and unending promises of a paradise, a heaven on earth, we
expected the UPND government to do better than this in their first budget. But it seems they are still in their unending campaign mode of making unnecessary promises of being Macgyvers who will easily fix this and that.
They have promised heaven but they seem to have serious difficulties delivering even purgatory. Their 2022 Budget is expansionary yet with tax concessions given to mining corporations, a clear demonstration that the UPND government is about to surrender our sovereignty to capital and not the people.

Suffice to say, we are known as the second largest producer of copper in Africa. By implication, the copper industry is the most important part of our economy. Be that as it may be, this sector has only been contributing an average 13 per cent to our GDP before Covid-19 hit and around 25 per cent after the pandemic hit us due to disruptions in trade and global supply chain. Ironically, it’s the retail business and PAYE that have been the major contributors to our GDP, meaning our country’s economic prospects is funded by poor people for the benefit of the rich.

You may wish to know that out of the 8 major mining corporations operating in Zambia, only two companies have been paying Company Income Tax (CIT) in the last 25 years. Meaning the rest have been declaring loses as our tax authorities have no capacity to find loopholes in their tax declarations. Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) seems to be very easy for these corporations. To maximise value from this sector, the Zambia Revenue Authority proposed the introduction of Mineral Royalty Tax (MRT) to bring certain “loss making” companies on the tax base. Mineral Royalty Tax is not a fee, it’s a tax. Currently it’s paid as final tax by both loss making and profit declaring mining corporations as a final tax. So it is net tax income to the Zambian people.

At the time when the copper prices are historically high, the UPND government has proposed in the 2022 Budget that MRT becomes a deductible tax. Meaning whatever losses they make off CIT can be netted off MRT. This may result in a significant resource mobilisation loss. In the end, the only benefits we may get from the mining sector are only business and job opportunities and PAYE.
Consequently, the named mine they are targeting to benefit from these concessions make super profits and externalise the money. There is no law that will hold them accountable for the promise of the USD2bn a named mine has promised to invest in Zambia. Moreover, in the unlikely event that decency prevails, the named beneficiary mine will use the same extra money saved from tax concessions after exporting Zambian minerals to reinvest in Zambia.

It’s public knowledge that only a named corporation had a legitimate complaint regarding double taxation with non- deductible MRT and Company Income Tax. Why didn’t those brains in government address this specific issue instead of mutilating the revenue base from the industry? One option was to reduce Income Tax to 5 per cent from 35 per cent or even reduce to 0 per cent and compute MRT at a level that protects Zambians.

Why do mining corporations love income tax? Simple transfer pricing and exaggeration of costs to declare lower taxable income. Why do they hate MRT? It’s based on extracted minerals and easy to administer by ZRA and difficult to cheat. Remember this, countries with deductible MRT and lower taxes in this industry have higher stakes or even controlling shares in private mining corporations. So they collect lower taxes and get dividends. In Zambia some mining companies are 100 per cent privately owned. Why such concessions? If Parliament has any spine, this is the time to show it.

Moreover, government just added K4bn non-discretionary expenditure by hiring 40,000 people at one go. It looks good on paper as a percentage of GDP, but that is a lot of pressure on the Treasury given that our wages plus debt service is equal to 114 per cent of domestic revenues. So, at the very least, pretty much all non-wage expenditure is coming from borrowing, which is unsustainable. Given their promises on debt contraction, one would have expected them to match their words with action by reducing on both domestic and foreign debt. If they are going to borrow $4.2 billion in one year yet reducing on the tax base, then they are further plunging the country into a vicious debt cycle.

Like PF, the UPND are continuing on the path of funding their budgets through debt. When you starting funding education – the building of schools – from borrowings – then you know you are on a very dangerous path. For many reasons – economic, cultural and otherwise – education should be funded from your own generated resources no matter what the difficulties or challenges. They seem to have no ideas on how to reduce the budget deficits yet they have unnecessary think tanks on their payroll such as ZIPAR, PMRC and National Economic Advisory Council who get paid for doing nothing and don’t even apply for competitive consultancy works for sustainability. You have 14 grant aides institutions under the Ministry of Health that are embroidered in the duplication of efforts. You have unnecessary courts, unnecessary service commissions and other grand aided institutions that can be merged and leverage on the usage of IT, internet of things and blockchain for less cost and less time while having more impact on productivity.

There has been a significant increase in CDF with no systems in place to manage that. As a socialist party, decentralization is one of our key pillars but it has to been done in a well thought out manner beginning with the transfers of key officers from the ministries that have been merged so that Lusaka only plays an oversight role. What has been assured is the what, the how has not been clearly stated.

We expected the UPND government to give a clear policy direction on the importation of fuel, especially through some government to government arrangement or private sector participation through their own pronounced Private Public Partnership in an attempt not only to stop wastage in terms of subsidies that only benefit middlemen but also to reduce the pressure on the exchange market each time we go to buy dollars to pay for fuel. In a word, they have continued on the same PF path of lack of innovation, generation of new ideas and strictly adherence to the same modus operandi.

Their fears of China shouldn’t be ours

Their fears of China shouldn’t be ours Featured

Let’s not allow others’ fears of China to be our fears.We really should have nothing to fear about China. Everyday we are being bombarded with anti-China propaganda on their television channels and other news media outlets.
Those who have enslaved us, exploited us, humiliated and colonised us for centuries are today trying to scare us about China doing the same to us. Why? Is it because they now love us more, care about us more?

It’s not about us they are worried; it’s about themselves. They are very worried about being surpassed by China economically, technologically and consequently militarily.
They must let others develop while seeking their own advancement; they must let others live better aspiring to live better themselves; they must let others feel secure while seeking their own security.

Let’s not blindly follow them on China. Every country’s situation is different, and every path is different. Whether the shoe fits or not, only the wearer knows.

We have more to learn and benefit from cooperation with China. But this is not to say dealing with China will be without problems or challenges. There’s no relationship without problems or challenges. But these have to be understood, weighed and dealt with as they arise. But our problems and challenges with China are very different from their problems and challenges with China. And they openly state their problems and challenges with China.
For instance, in early October, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States announced that it had created a top-level working group on China. CIA Director William Burns said that the United States is facing its “toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry,” and so the CIA stated that it would focus its attention on this test. What is the test? The test is, as US President Joe Biden put it, China’s “aggressiveness.”
What is the evidence of Chinese “aggressiveness”? The last time the armed forces of the United States and China had a serious clash was in 2001, when a US Navy intelligence aircraft, which was conducting a reconnaissance mission extremely close to South China’s Hainan Province, collided with a Chinese fighter jet. Since then, there has been no direct clash between American and Chinese forces. However, the US has continued to build up military capabilities in the Pacific Ocean, strengthening its Indo-Pacific Command, establishing two new military and strategic channels (the QUAD with Australia, India, and Japan, as well as AUKUS with Australia and the United Kingdom), in addition to ratcheting up its rhetoric versus China. China, meanwhile, has built up its defensive capabilities, including military means to defend its territory and its regional interests.

Even the US military has acknowledged in a key report that China does not seek to attack the US nor threaten its interests outside of Asia (Pentagon, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2020). This same document from the US military makes it clear that China, unlike the US, has adopted a “no first use” nuclear policy. As the US military document notes, “China will never use nuclear weapons first at any time nor under any circumstances, and China unconditionally undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any nonnuclear-weapon state or in nuclear-weapon-free zones.”

If the US military’s own assessment is that China is not a threat, then why does the White House continue to advance the view of a “China threat”? In his first speech to the US Congress as President in April 2021, Joe Biden said that “China and other countries are closing in fast.” Biden was not referring to any specific military developments. Despite all the rhetoric, the US still boasts a vast military, much more powerful than any other military force on the planet.

So, when Biden says that China is “closing in fast,” he is not in fact referring to a military challenge but to an economic challenge. It is now widely recognized that in certain key fields, such as telecommunications, high-speed rail, etc., China’s scientific and technological achievements are already one or two generations ahead of the US. This is a serious challenge to US-based high-tech firms, which have come to believe that they have a divine right to retain their superiority. This challenge from China has been something of a surprise to them, and one that they feel can only be remedied by non-market forces, such as a US-imposed hybrid war. It is this rising economic threat that has provoked the US to adopt its increasingly war-like rhetoric and a military build-up on China’s shores.

Fred M’membe
President of the Socialist Party (Zambia)

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe Featured

Intolerance – the unwillingness to put up with disagreeable ideas and groups – is increasingly becoming a staple of those who want to hear only one narrative in this country.

The topic is today no less important than it was in the days of UNIP and Dr Kenneth Kaunda. In those days people were dissuaded in all sorts of ways from uttering words against, or in opposition of, UNIP and Dr Kaunda.

The failure of truly democratizing our politics to embrace political freedom for all, even those in the opposition, is one of the most important impediments to the consolidation of our multiparty or plural politics.

Without protection of the right of all to participate in politics, the marketplace of ideas cannot function effectively. The idea of a marketplace is that anyone can put forth a product—an idea—for political consumers to consider. The success of the idea is determined by the level of support freely given in the market. The market encourages deliberation, through which superior ideas are found to be superior, and through which the flaws of bad ideas are exposed for all to see – almost as if guided by an invisible hand. Without a willingness to put up with all ideologies and ideas seeking to compete for the hearts and minds of the citizenry the market is likely to fail. Thus, a fairly simple theory is that democracies require the free and open debate of political differences, and such debate can only take place where political tolerance prevails.

Political tolerance in a democracy requires that all political ideas – and the groups holding them – get the same access to the marketplace of ideas as the access legally extended to the ideas dominating the system. This definition obviously precludes any form of violence, bullying and therefore I make no claim that political tolerance extends to the right of violent elements to engage in violence. It may, however, protect the speech rights of violent elements, or, more precisely, those who advocate violence.

Actions and behaviors related to efforts to persuade people and to compete for political power must be put up with. Obviously, illegal activity need not be countenanced, even if I acknowledge that the line between legal and illegal is often thin, given the power and propensity of our rulers to criminalize political activities by the opposition and other dissenters.

The marketplace of ideas approach anticipates two important – and interconnected – restraints on freedom. First, many fear that the government, typically under the guise of regulation, will usurp power and deny the expression of ideas threatening to the status quo – i.e. the power of the government of the day.

A second constraint on freedom is more subtle: it originates in the political culture of a polity – the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors of ordinary citizens. Restraints on freedom can certainly emanate from public policy; but they can also be found in subtle demands for conformity within a society’s culture. To the extent that ordinary citizens are intolerant of views challenging mainstream thought, the expression of such viewpoints is likely to generate sanctions and costs. This can in turn create a spiral of silence: a dynamic process in which those holding minority viewpoints increasingly learn about how rare their views are, thereby leading to silence, which in turn makes the ideas seem to be even less widely held, and therefore more dangerous or costly to express.

This growing intolerance, if not stopped, will create a silent generation, a cohort unwilling to express views that might be considered controversial or unpopular. And, to complete the circle, mass political intolerance can be a useful form of political capital for those who would in turn enact repressive legislation. To the extent that a political culture emphasizes conformity and penalizes those with contrarian ideas, little tolerance exists, and the likelihood of political repression is high.