The International Monetary Fund’s reluctance to finally approve an economic bailout programme for Zambia due to the government’s excessive borrowing is shameful, says All People’s Congress (APC) leader Nason Msoni.

And Msoni says if government had any moral conscience, it would have suspended the collection of tolls fees from dilapidated and dangerous roads.

Commenting on the Fund’s suspension of talks on Zambia’s economic bailout package, widely expected to be around US $1.3 billion, Msoni said it was a shameful thing for Zambia to be “rejected” by the IMF due to excessive borrowing.

IMF communications director Gerry Rice disclosed on July 12 that the Fund had suspended discussions on a possible economic bailout programme because the Zambian government’s borrowing plans had compromised the country’s debt sustainability, which in-turn, would undermine Zambia’s macroeconomic stability.

“It is really shameful to be rejected by the IMF because the IMF goes even for the worst, they help even the worst. It means that we are the worst amongst all eligible borrowers or lenders for us to be rejected on face value that we are recklessly contracting debt. We can’t continue on this path. And in fact, when you check these same roads that we spend so much [on], you find that the roads are poorly constructed and yet we spend so much on them. You find that, year after year, we have to continue to start mending the same roads that had been done. So, we think that time has come when we must get value for money,” Msoni told News Diggers! in an interview.

“Now, these borrowings at the end of the process are all channelled towards capital projects because capital project is failure of interests. That is where they ditch the money for themselves. We cannot go on like this! We must reach a point where these things are dealt in a manner that we think that this is the actual price of the road. It is unfortunate that thefts have continued to go unabated.”

He added that variations of roads from between 50 to 400 per cent as established by economist Professor Oliver Saasa, among others, was one way government was using to fundraise to fulfil its selfish objectives.

“The construction of roads in this country has become a culture for greedy politicians. The mere fact that, they do these criminal variations is all about fundraising; it is all about making money for their selfish gains! That is why in Zambia than anywhere else in the region, probably in Africa, our roads are more than five to ten times as expensive. So, we think that is the area that is suffocating even the national budget, capital expenditure provision in the national budget. This is what is draining us and this is also what is driving this country also into a situation where we are in a position we cannot borrow because even the IMF has blacklisted us because we keep borrowing and borrowing,” Msoni argued.

And Msoni said if government had any moral conscience, it would have suspended collection of tolls from dilapidated and dangerous roads.

“And you just put toll gates anyhow, including on those roads, which are death traps! The idea of a toll is that you are paying to use a good and safe road, not a death trap. So, we think that in this country, our government is robbing citizens, it is cheating on us. They put up a toll gate and then the road is a dangerous take. And I think even as citizens, we need to start voicing out our concerns to say, ‘look, when we pay for a service…’ and that includes also the payment of road tax, we expect to use good, safe roads, we must see value for our money. Zambian citizens should learn to refuse to be led like sheep to a slaughter house! If you look at the Great North Road, it’s in a very dangerous state that if this government had any moral conscience, it should have suspended collection of tolls because you cannot put so many tolls on a terrible road! Not only that, but we think the toll gates are excessive and are a drain on citizens, especially farmers” said Msoni.