Economist Chibamba Kanyama has explained that his remarks on Zambians keeping money in offshore accounts as reported by Lusaka Times were not portrayed in correct context because the reporter published views which he shared in a private Facebook conversation.
Kanyama was responding to a query from News Diggers.
“The issue of offshore accounts and related tax havens has become a hot issue in Zambia and I rarely imagined my ‘personal’ discussion with a few colleagues would be headline news in Lusaka Times and have significant public traction. Unfortunately, the article only captured my sentiments without the full context of the discussion I was involved in. I simply participated, like I have done a few times before, on a Facebook post by one of my young friends Chanda Nonde who wanted more information about offshore accounts in as much as it affected the political economy. The backdrop was the Auditor General report that exposed high levels of abuses to public funds,” he said.
“The discussion basically involved three people and my attempt was to provide an actual definition of offshore, its implications and how such accounts benefit the country or can be abused. Through some kind of question and answer, I explained my personal experiences with offshore investments and that offshore involves making investments and deposits in foreign banks and corporations.”
He stressed that many people had legitimately invested in offshore accounts.
“Many individuals and corporations have legitimately invested into offshore accounts where regulations were investor-friendly or relaxed and enabled such entities to avoid paying taxes which in itself was not wrong. For example, many Zambian registered corporations patent their own brands abroad, to companies they own, pay royalties in the foreign country patents are registered and such payments are tax deductible. This is tax avoidance. Governments cannot prosecute companies for such transactions unless they capture them through a policy pronouncement as happened in the 2018 Zambian budget announcement,” he said.
“There are many Zambians who have invested into offshore accounts either through direct participation or via other investment vehicles for better returns for their investors. Pension Funds and insurance companies have, for some time been requesting PIA to relax thresholds on offshore investments. Though not aptly stated in my responses to the questions, I disclosed the problems associated with offshore accounts as some individuals and corporations use them for illicit purposes. If such activities border on tax evasion and money laundering, such individuals must be made to account and prosecuted.”
He said although he never tailored his answers as responses to an official press query, his views remained valid.
“In short, I never made an intentional statement on offshore accounts but merely responded to a question. My views, nonetheless, remain valid but should be captured within the context under which they were made. I am happy to engage in productive discussions with those whose intention is to share knowledge,; who knows we may find solutions to some challenges associated with offshore investments because they exist among Zambians,” said Kanyama.