TBY talks to The Hon. Dr. John J. N. Phiri, MP, Minister of Local Government and Housing, on the improvement of supply projects, trends in housing development, and the importance of local governments.
What are the most strategic projects in terms of public works that you will inaugurate in the near future?
The most strategic projects to be inaugurated in the near future include the rehabilitation and construction of urban and feeder road projects. We are also working on the improvement of urban and rural supply and sanitation projects, as well as housing development, especially for low and middle-income groups. We are active in the construction of engineered landfills for solid waste management, especially in urban areas. In addition, the construction of municipal and auxiliary buildings such as bus stations, fire stations, sports facilities, and shopping malls are key in our development.
According to the Central Statistical Office report, Zambia is projected to experience a housing deficit of 3 million by 2030. What are your strategies to improve housing accessibility and affordability to all strata of society?
The ministry is currently reviewing the National Housing policy so that it is in line with the current trends in housing development. The housing supply schemes in the country at present are site and service, parastatal, informal, institutional, private, and public housing supply. These schemes are not sufficient to meet the current housing demands. There is a need to recapitalize the Zambia National Building Society, which is a mortgage institution, and at the same time improve the supply of serviced land for housing development.
Construction is one of the sectors experiencing the largest growth in the country, and several cement companies are currently making important investments. How do you expect this industry to impact the economic development of Zambia?
These developments will have a positive impact on job creation. Additionally, they will advance economic activity, as transport infrastructure is expanded and agricultural production developed. It is a positive process because we expect a lower cost of construction and doing business in general through the encouragement of competition among producers.
What projects are of highest priority in terms of national roads?
Our priority is to expand the road network to support agricultural and industrial development. In urban areas there is also a need for decongestion of city roads through improved mass transport systems. For heavy industries, roads to link copper mining areas to the rest of the country are required.
What are the main strategies that you have set for the ministry to improve the water supply and sanitation in urban and rural areas?
In improving the water supply and sanitation the ministry has developed the national urban and rural water and sanitation programs. These are mainly focused on increasing access to clean and safe water and improved sanitation in urban and rural areas, as well as recapitalizing the commercial utility companies to make them viable.
What are your personal objectives for the Ministry of Local Government and Housing during your tenure in office?
My personal objectives are anchored in the Patriotic Front manifesto of 2011-16. This document gives each minister a road map as to what should be achieved during the tenure of the Patriotic Front government. The PF Government recognizes the critical role of local government as an engine for delivering services, infrastructure, and development to the communities of Zambia. As a signatory to the Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration of 1996, Zambia committed itself to promoting decentralization through democratic local authorities and to work toward strengthening the local authorities’ financial capacities. That is the major thrust in the administration of local government. Furthermore, we want to help our councils increase the stock of houses that can be offered for rent. One method we are trying to explore to deal with this demand for houses is the public-private partnerships, and the other is the possibility of the government guaranteeing specific loans to enable our councils to build houses. In my tenure, I would like to contribute to establishing a system of local government that will promote local economic development and improve delivery of essential infrastructure and services through local self-government.