What is the “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper”?
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper is a national plan to reduce poverty and increase incomes for all Zambians. It is usually known as the “PRSP”.
The PRSP plans to give all Zambians a chance to engage in farming, to get employment, or to start their own businesses. The PRSP supports better access to basic services, especially health and education. PRSP also focuses on improving infrastructure - like roads, water and fuel - for all citizens.
There have been many other national plans before, but the poor have not felt the results. In the past, it was just assumed that any big project would eventually show benefits to the poor. But this usually didn’t happen, and the benefits (if any) went to the owners of the projects. So when Government designed the PRSP, it was careful to learn from the previous problems.
The PRSP addresses the problems of the poor directly, and ensures that all citizens really see the benefits of improved services and increased access to employment and business.
Who wrote the PRSP? You wrote the PRSP!
Many, many people have contributed to the PRSP. It is a national document that belongs to all Zambians.
The PRSP planning process took two years to complete. Each key section was drafted by a “working group” that included Government Ministries, NGOs, international organisations and donors, Churches and any other relevant organisations. The drafts were discussed at Provincial Consultation workshops throughout the country, with local leaders, traditional Chiefs, officers and development workers, and ordinary men and women. A national summit was held to get contributions from a cross section of professionals. Each working group finalised their sections after these consultations. The whole process was supported by an expert team at the Ministry of Finance in Lusaka.
The Cabinet finally approved the PRSP in 2002, making it an official national policy document.
What is “Civil Society for Poverty Reduction”?
In most villages, communities and compounds of Zambia, you will find some sort of organisation. There might be a Church, a women’s group, an NGO, a farmers’ association, or a Health Committee or PTA. They might be very local, or part of a national or international organisation. The activities might be development work, care for vulnerable people, advocacy or lobbying, or religious activities. They might get funding from outside, or they might not.
If you add these together, this is Zambia’s “civil society”.
Government realised that the PRSP needed the active participation of civil society. Civil society has the knowledge and experience that can ensure the success of the PRSP. So the NGOs, Churches and other civil society organisations came together to form “Civil Society for Poverty Reduction” or CSPR. It is a networking organisation, bringing its members together into a clear voice in the PRSP process. CSPR has participated in the working groups and consultatory forums throughout the PRSP process.
Now that the PRSP has been approved, the next job for CSPR is to monitor implementation. CSPR will be constantly checking if PRSP is really reducing poverty. If there are problems in implementation, CSPR will be there to demand the necessary changes, and ensure that the lives of the poor are changed for good.
Is Zambia the only country doing this?
No, Zambia is not the only country writing a PRSP. Other poor countries have realised that most of their citizens are just getting poorer. Many of the countries have got huge debts, which mean that they can’t manage effective development programmes for their citizens.
The international community has also seen this, and come up with a programme called the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC). In this programme, each country has to write a PRSP. Once this is agreed, money that should have been used for debt repayment is used for poverty reduction programmes instead. HIPC funds will be planned and spent through the national budget. The budget reflects national priorities, that have been adjusted to highlight poverty reduction. Other Government sectoral programmes are also reflected in the budget.
CSPR sees this as a real opportunity for poverty reduction and development. Like any programme, if we simply wait and watch, it might fail. But if we participate fully at all stages, we can ensure that our programme succeeds.
What is this book about?
The PRSP is for all Zambians, and belongs to all Zambians. This booklet summarises the PRSP, and highlights its main issues, policies and programmes. If you read this booklet, you will then know what Government will be implementing under PRSP.
CSPR has published this booklet because it is important that everyone knows what is in the PRSP.
If we know what to expect, we will know if Government has succeeded in delivering its promises.
The PRSP is a long and complicated document. This summary is quite long too, because we have included all the chapters of PRSP. We suggest you read the first five pages to know what the PRSP is about, and how it is structured. After that, read the rest of the book if you wish, or choose the subjects that most interest you.
Ideas for Community Leaders
This book is for everyone. But we know that not everyone can read! The responsibility of helping all citizens to understand will fall to community leaders – the teachers, priests, health workers, development workers, retirees and local leaders. Please, help to ensure that everyone knows about PRSP.
The PRSP is long. Don’t try to rush into complicated explanations! First, read this booklet through yourself until you are comfortable with the contents. You can then talk about it with others, preferably in several sessions. The first session could look at the background, at our national poverty, and at the PRSP approach. Then you could ask community members what they would most like to discuss – agriculture or mining? Health or education? HIV/AIDS? Governance? Gradually, you can move on and cover all the issues. As you discuss each issue, encourage the group to compare what is written here with their own experiences, and how they think they can make their opinions known to political leaders such as their MPs.