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THE dis­sention be­tween Gov­ern­ment and the min­ing firms over new taxes has the po­ten­tial to hurt the econ­omy at the time the coun­try is set on a sta­bil­i­sa­tion and growth path. There­fore, the two par­ties must quickly get to the round-ta­ble and re­solve the mat­ter as op­posed to de­bat­ing the mat­ter in a man­ner that is ex­ac­er­bat­ing the dis­agree­ment. Clearly, this is no time for se­ri­ous dis­agree­ments with ma­jor play­ers in the econ­omy, but it is time for the coun­try to con­sol­i­date fis­cal poli­cies. The coun­try should this time around work to­wards re­duc­ing shocks in the econ­omy so that the Eco­nomic Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Growth Pro­gramme (ESGP) and other Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives are not scut­tled in the process. Yes, the gov­ern­ment has worked out a pro­gramme to en­hance do­mes­tic rev­enue mo­bil­i­sa­tion through tax and non-tax mea­sures. The em­pha­sis though is en­hanc­ing rev­enue col­lec­tion through taxes – a prac­tice in all coun­tries. It is against this back­ground that the gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced new tax mea­sures in the ex­trac­tive in­dus­try. Thus min­ing firms must not look at the new tax mea­sures us­ing dis­torted eye lenses. The min­ing firms’ coun­ter­pro­posal is laced with a toxic dose which has sparked a de­bate. Surely, scal­ing down pro­duc­tion and hold­ing back in­vest­ment is the quick­est route to liq­ui­da­tion or sim­ply shut­ting down an un­der­tak­ing. In essence, a scale down in pro­duc­tion and sus­pen­sion of re-in­vest­ment is a prepa­ra­tion or pointer to clo­sure. Is the Zam­bia Cham­ber of Mines sug­gest­ing that min­ing firms are fold­ing up! If the an­swer is in the neg­a­tive, then the only in­fer­ence is that the firms have merely un­leashed an un­war­ranted threat to force Gov­ern­ment to back down. Min­ing firms are do­ing so know­ing too well that the coun­try is try­ing as much as pos­si­ble to avoid a pre­car­i­ous sce­nario in the eco­nomic arena . For in­stance, they are aware that the coun­try can­not meet eco­nomic fun­da­men­tals and tar­gets if un­em­ploy­ment lev­els go up. That it is why they are threat­en­ing to throw thou­sands of min­ers on the streets. Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, min­ing firms should have come up with a fea­si­ble and rea­son­able coun­ter­pro­posal in terms of fig­ures. They should have called for a re­duc­tion in the pro­posed fig­ures so that there is a win-win sit­u­a­tion rather than de­mand­ing com­plete with­drawal of taxes. Yes, Gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced five per­cent im­port duty on cop­per con­cen­trate and also pro­posed min­eral royal tax in grad­u­at­ing bands. Ad­di­tion­aly, the state has in­tro­duced a 15 per­cent duty on emer­alds and gold ex­ports. It would have been rea­son­able for min­ing com­pa­nies to counter-pro­pose that im­port duty should stand at two per cent, for in­stance, in­stead of the pro­posed five per cent. They should en­gage Gov­ern­ment with due deco­rum and not at­tempt­ing to call the shots through the me­dia. In fact, it is er­ro­neous for Konkola Cop­per Mines (KCM) of­fi­cials to sug­gest that they are clos­ing the Nchanga unit be­cause of the new tax pro­pos­als. KCM has been strug­gling for a long time and scaled down op­er­a­tions way back; it has been fail­ing to meet obli­ga­tions with con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers. Most of the min­ing equip­ment, ve­hi­cles and other fa­cil­i­ties have bro­ken down as a re­sult of lack of main­te­nance. There­fore, KCM should not even have jumped on the band­wagon be­cause the firm has been in a mess to the ex­tent of strug­gling to pay salaries. There­fore, min­ing firms should stop de­mon­is­ing Gov­ern­ment over taxes, but ne­go­ti­ate rea­son­ably for a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

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