Former finance minister N’gandu Magande says the withdrawal of IMF country representative Alfredo Baldini from Zambia will further jeopardise the country’s chance of accessing a bailout package from the International lending institution.
In July, the IMF revealed that talks on Zambia’s economic bailout package, widely expected to be around US$1.3 billion, had been suspended owing to concerns surrounding the country’s debt sustainability.
Sources have revealed that since the negotiations for the said bailout package stalled, Zambia started mounting pressure on the multinational lender to withdraw Baldini, on claims that he had been acting unprofessional.
Last week, the IMF gave in to the government’s demand to withdraw Baldini, whose tour of duty in Zambia has not yet come to an end.
Commenting on the development in an interview with News Diggers! Magande who served under late president Levy Mwanawasa’s administration, said it was possible that the IMF accepted the request for Dr Baldini’s withdrawal from Zambia because the Fund could not see any sign of positive outcomes from the discussions held with the Zambian government.
“Dr Baldini would be the one who knows what we have been saying. He is even the one who would know what has been happening in government because he was resident here. So if before we even conclude those discussions then he goes away, that simply means that we have to start all over again. If the IMF sends a replacement, we will have to start briefing the new representative to try to get him to understand us, that is going to take some time,” Magande said.
“So that is the only strange thing that I have noticed. So in a normal situation, the government could have said ‘no, I think this person who has been here long enough and who has been understanding our issues should not leave while we are having these negotiations with IMF headquarters. It will delay the process because the other man has to understand what you want and then he has to understand what the environment is in Zambia.”
He said Baldini’s departure was a bad sign.
“I think even himself; the fact that now he says ‘it doesn’t matter let me go, it simply means he has seen that this mango tree has no flowers [and] so it won’t have any mangoes even if I stay. How can someone leave when the maize is about to be ready for roasting? Because these people in these jobs they actually get promoted on the basis of what they have done where they were posted. Now that he hasn’t achieved anything so how will they assess him? Next time they need to send him to another country they will say ‘ah but this one, he didn’t manage to get Zambia’ and the more a country is difficult the better if you succeed in getting them to understand the IMF. But now he has decided ‘it doesn’t matter and that ‘even if it goes on my record, people will understand why I didn’t succeed’,” Magande said.
And Mangande said on the other hand it was possible that the IMF saw lack of interest from the Zambian government.