(i) limited the degree of competition (internal and external) to which the domestic economy was exposed.
(ii) suppressed the role of market mechanisms in guiding the allocation of resources; and
(iii) overly extended the role of the public sector (World Bank, 1994, p.11).
While politically this move appealed highly to the electorate and became consistent with the new self-determination, the inefficiencies of state-run commercial enterprises, mainly emanating from the government, spelled economic disaster:
. mismanagement of the economy;
. adoption and application of inappropriate technologies;
. poor management and enormous waste of resources;
. deterioration of social indicators of health, education, nutrition, infant mortality, life expectancy and access to safe drinking water and sanitation;
. low or negative rates of GDP growth;
. high unemployment and underemployment;
. deteriorating of foreign exchange position;
. rising inflation;
. increase in public debt;
. high levels of poverty and inequality in the distribution of income and wealth; and
. a considerable part of the social service infrastructure in a state of disrepair.
In the past twenty-three years (1974-1997), Zambia's' living conditions have deteriorated so much that most of the gains which were achieved in income distribution and social indicators during the economic years 1964 to 1974, have been reversed. The decline in economic productivity, output and investment between 1974 and 1997, have made Zambia's per capita national income and all its social indicators to fall dramatically.
In view of the foregoing argument, a working definition of poverty is propose Poverty means low life expectancy, low educational opportunities, inadequate access to resources for a decent standard of living (e.g., income and consumption, housing, health, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, productive potential, and other central dimensions of well-being), and lack of freedom to exercise choice and participate in society.
In addition to the post-independence macro-economic inappropriate policies and external shocks, there have also been other, probably even more formidable, causes of Zambia's poverty, that lie inside and outside of Zambia. Secondly, poverty in Zambia is typically `structural poverty' (i.e., it is man-made and NOT a result of the country's poor soil, harsh climate, inadequate resources and other physical or biological conditions). Instead, it is caused by the structural biases and distortions that are inherent in the country's (a) political; (b) economic; (c) educational; (d) relationships with rich countries; and (e) cultural institutions, in that order. It is these biases and distortions which mainly cause poverty and suppress national development in the country.
Ultimately, in order for the national development process in the country to succeed, there should be comprehensive and well-targeted `structural transformations' in all these areas discussed above, in order to propel the country forward. These transformations should be more extensive, growth- and poverty reduction-oriented than the on-going structural adjustment program, and supported by progressive and development-oriented organisations. The proposed interventions in the discussed biases and distortions, are likely to cause the greatest impact on poverty reduction.
The paper recommends the following five strategies for poverty reduction in Zambia:
. To increase broad-based economic growth in agriculture and rural development;
. To provide public physical infrastructure;
. To increase productivity of the urban micro-enterprises and informal sector;
. To develop human resources; and
. To co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate poverty reduction programs.
These five strategies encompass many sub-areas which have been at the centre of national development discussion for Zambia and other developing countries with similar characteristics. It is, therefore, recognised that other actors and stakeholders need not recognise their own areas but rather identify themselves with the national goals and co-operate with and support the government to make national development and poverty reduction a reality in Zambia. This would help to concentrate efforts and resources on specific goals, lessen scattering and misusing limited resources, and increase chances of success.