WE are concerned that since assuming power, our President has changed Finance Ministers four times and this is the second Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governor under his six year reign so far. Surely, that shows that the problem is not the appointees, but the appointing authority. What is even more worrying is that despite all these changes, nothing is changing the economy. In fact, it’s getting worse.
In our view, that is a signal that you are applying wrong methods in dealing with a situation. Experts say you can solve political problems with economic solutions, but you cannot solve economic problems with political solutions. This is one thing that President Lungu must know. That approach has been tried in the past and it has failed miserably.
Since we can’t see any scandal that necessitated the dismissal of Governor Denny Kalyalya, and President Lungu is not willing to share the intel that inspired his decision, we can only speculate. Maybe it’s true that the Central Bank boss refused to print money on political demand. If, indeed, it’s money that he refused to print, then we can only liken President Lungu to Idi Amin of Uganda who thought producing foreign currency is like cooking ugali.
There is no way that President Lungu can convince anyone that he removed Dr Kalyalya on the basis of incompetence. We believe that everyone in this country, including the newly-appointed Governor, held Dr Kalyalya in very high esteem and we all know that the man was more than equal to the task. So, this move gives credit to speculation that the President probably wanted a user-friendly Central Bank governor, who could take political orders without raising questions.
If the governor did nothing wrong, but the President simply decided to flex his muscle for no good reason, then we can only guess that perhaps whisky may have been involved in that decision-making process, and a bit of cheering from cadres: “Mutamfyeni fye uyo alatuletelela”.
In fact, the dismissal of Dr Kalyalya doesn’t look so different from the case of a police officer who was demoted and transferred to a remote location on grounds that he was saying “Lungu takapite”. Within minutes after a cadre accused the officer of predicting doom for the Head of State, the poor cop was punished without being subjected to a disciplinary hearing – just like President Lungu couldn’t wait for Monday to fire Dr Kalyalya.
If President Lungu made the decision because he didn’t like what Dr Kalyalya repeatedly said about the Zambian economy and how negative sentiments from politicians were affecting the exchange rate, he must know that even his new appointee will say the same things when he settles in that office, unless he is not a competent financial expert. It is the duty of the Central Bank governor to explain, not just monetary policy, but also factors affecting the economy. Warning from that office must be taken seriously.
This Central Bank Governor who has been shown the door had been very consistent. There is nothing that he has said recently about the projected recession, which he didn’t say before. It’s not the first time that he expressed concern over how we are running the affairs of this country. Followers of this page saw some of the honest quotes that we published from him in our Monday edition.
So, the dismissal of Dr Kalyalya is ill-timed. On one hand you’re saying you want to engage the IMF. But look at the signal you are sending. We have nothing personal against Dr Kalyalya’s replacement, he surely deserves a chance to prove himself, but even he would not agree to the timing of such a crucial decision.
Although the South African Minister of Finance, Honourable Tito Mboweni, was way out of his line for meddling so rudely in another country’s sovereign affairs, his observations and concerns are legitimate. These are the same views that we are sure several ministers in President Lungu’s Cabinet had, but could not speak out for obvious reasons.
Monetary policy is not to be interfered with by politicians. The moment you send a signal that politicians are in control of the Central Bank, there are very few lenders who will deal with you because you are sending a picture that you are going the Zimbabwe route. It shows that you don’t want internationally respected professionals to be advising you. No disrespect to Honourable Mvunga, but many people may consider him as a politically astute person than a banking technocrat; and it’s possible that he may have been assigned to implement a political agenda.
Anyway, it’s President Lungu’s time to hire and fire as he wishes, and we will shut up for now to allow him enjoy his prerogative. We hope he will also respect the prerogative of the Zambian people when time comes for them to decide his fate next year.