01:15 GMT 21st December 2011
Clearing the air on military push
Daify Nation, Nairobi
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has now endorsed Kenya's actions, clearing up the doubts raised earlier when the country's president likened the military intervention to a violation of his country's territorial integrity.
The understanding is that Kenya will work together with the TFG forces and hand over the areas "liberated" from Al-Shabaab to the government. Kenya has also assuaged a key Somali concern with the assurance that there is no intention to hold on to an inch of Somali territory or to help create a breakaway Jubaland or Azania region. Another key outcome of the meeting was the opportunity for the Kenya and Somali governments to jointly address the wider international community. Representatives of the European Union, the US, Canada, Turkey, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt were among those briefed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his Somali counterpart.
All largely expressed a fresh understanding of the mission. There is no doubt the Kenya and Somali governments need direct financial and military help to prosecute the war against Al-Shabaab. There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance in the drought-stricken regions of southern Somalia. The massive relief effort required cannot succeed without security and an effective government administration. This is where support from the international community will be crucial. The Kenyan military mission must not be seen as a solo effort by one country, but as part of a major international push towards a peaceful Somalia.
Violence, bribery and fraud
The eruption of political violence at [a] rally in Chitungwiza in [early November] was not surprising given recent events which include the banning and disruption of rallies, as well as the country's history of brutality and bloodshed, mainly around elections.
November 6's disturbing events were a harbinger of worse things to come. It is clear the state security forces, whose unlawful interference in partisan politics has always created upheavals, are still pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Certainly, as elections loom they will again aggressively dip into politics in a bid to influence the outcome to protect their own self-serving interests and possibly front their candidate as a future national leader. This seems to be the game-plan of a ruthless and go-getting clique straddling Zanu PF and state structures.
Recent events have clearly shown there is a fifth column at work in this country comprising ambitious elements from the state security forces and Zanu PF opportunists trying to influence the direction of politics and future of the country.
This group- trying to undermine the will of the people - is however motivated by a narrow agenda and self-aggrandisementthe Marange alluvial diamonds being one of their major motivations.
The stakes in the battle for the future of Zimbabwe are now very high because of the diamonds factor. That is why it would be naive and even dangerous for those struggling to remove Mugabe and steer the country towards a democratic course to under-estimate Zanu PF and its leaders. They are going to fight to a bitter end.
The inexorable decline of President Robert Mugabe's power and rule, as well as the subsequent growth of a power vacuum has emboldened some elements in the military and their civilian backers to try to subvert democratic processes and grab power.
Recent political statements by prominent figures within the security forces, followed by political violence and intimidation, show there is a militarised group operating behind the scenes to seize the initiative and shape of events. It is encouraged by deteriorating civilmilitary relations.
The people's budget
The Times of Zambia
The budget for fiscal year 2012 presented (last month) has to a large extent met people's expectations firstly by increasing the mineral royalty tax from three to six per cent. The relentless demand to revise taxes in the mining industry has been in tandem with the PF government's pre-election promise to ensure the locals benefit from their mineral wealth.
In the same vein, the government has extended the duty on mineral export to all unprocessed or semi-processed mineral ores while the VAT deferment scheme on mineral concentrates has been removed to capture more revenue.
Yes, the windfall tax has for now not been re-introduced, but the above measures will have a positive impact on the treasury as they are a balanced re-alignment on the estimates of revenue and expenditure. It would have been unwise for the government to reintroduce the windfall tax bearing in mind that negotiations with the mining firms had not been done sufficiently.
The government has gone further to make the cost of borrowing affordable for the private sector by abolishing the upper corporate tax for commercial banks at 40 so that they fall within the standard 35 per cent.
This will create fiscal space for the financial sector to offer affordable loans as the base lending rates are likely to reduce further.
Another significant feat for this budget is the 1 00 per cent increase in grants to the local authorities which for the past 20 years have been teetering on knife edge and failed lamentably in public service delivery.
Members of the public have had to put up with huge heaps of garbage on the roadsides and markets because councils have had no capacity to clear the mess.
Worth noting is the fact that the government will anchor its growth agenda on agriculture, whose allocation bas increased by 37.9 per cent, tourism and manufacturing.
Allocation to health has been increased by 45 per cent while education allocation has gone up by 26.7 per cent.
With infrastructure and social sector development getting 50 per cent of the budget, there will be increased investment, job creation and this will ultimately reduce poverty levels from 60 per cent and about 77 per cent in the rural areas. The PF government's inaugural budget has thus crafted a realistic 2012launch-pad to realise its dream in line with the theme: 'Making Zambia a better place for all.'