The Center for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has observed that Zambia’s national debt has continued to swell as it is carried forward from one budget circle to another.

In an interview with News Diggers! CTPD executive director Isaac Mwaipopo expressed concern over the amount of debt that the country had accrued overtime which he said was likely to graduate to 2024 if government did not stop borrowing.

He asked members of parliament to tighten the screws and avoid approving unnecessary loans.

“In terms of debt management, CTPD is concerned at the growing debt levels, we are aware that currently, we have loans that we are still financing, some of which will graduate by 2022, others by 2024. We need to fully pay the principle amount on the loan that we have accumulated as a country. Now the concern is that we have continued to borrow more funds and even as we are borrowing these funds, we are wondering if at all our key institutions like Parliament who are supposed to play an oversight role in ensuring that before acquisition of these loans, they actually give an approval. It will be important that Parliament steps up its role and helps to ensure that there is actually a proper channel in the acquisition of loans,” said Mwaipopo.

“CTPD welcomes the publication of the 2018-2020 Green Paper which is aimed at linking government medium term development goals as tabulated in the 7th National Development Plan… If you look at the documents, you will realise that as a country we struggled in the first half of the year to raise resources domestically, actually one of the things that you will note in the document that has been shared is that expenditure outstripped revenue collection in terms of the resources that we were able to mobilise domestically. So what that means is that as a country we have continued to rely on grants and other options such as borrowing to finance development,” Mwaipopo said.

“We have taken note that in terms of the total budget for 2018, it is actually standing on 65 per cent which is not so different from the budget for 2017 if you look at it in terms of the figures. When we look at 2018, I think there are certain lessons that we might need to carry forward from 2017 and key among them is the performance when you look at targets that are being set in terms of raising the resources domestically.”

He said the government will need to expand it’s revenue generation base.

“CTPD has a number of expectations that boarder on revenue generation and one of them is around the way our key sector like the exportation of scrap metals have been handled. The nation has to benefit revenue generation from some of these strategic sectors instead of just having a low per cent in some of these export duties that we gain from the export of scrap metals. Government can consider increasing the percentage so as to discourage the exportation of the commodity. As we do that it will be also important to consider some of the accompanying measures such as ensuring that the local market is in the position to consume the commodity, as in to process the scrap metals,” Mwaipopo said.

Mwaipopo also expected government to consider scaling up funding towards key sectors like education and health to secure a healthy country.

“With Regard to expenditure, some of the things that we have noted from the 2017 national budget are that there was a considerable consideration towards spending on critical social sectors but if you look at it in terms of percentage, we think it still falls far below. So as we move towards 2018, it will be good for the government to still consider supporting critical social sectors. It will be also important to consider scaling up spending towards the education and health sectors to secure a healthy country,” Mwaipopo said.

“We would also want to submit that as Parliament opens and begins to sit, we also have expectations that they will consider prioritising the finalisation of the planning and budgeting Act as well as the revised Finance Act so as to strengthen our ability to manage the resources that we have in an efficient manner.”