THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the current staff team now has the mandate to discuss an economic programme with Zambia.

According to a statement issued by Ministry of Finance spokesperson Chileshe Kandeta, the announcement was made by the IMF Mission Chief Dhaneshwar Ghura during the ongoing IMF virtual consultations, which started on Monday evening.

“The IMF and government have commenced the virtual consultative and information exchange mission for Zambia. The first session between the IMF and the government team led by Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu was held on Monday evening. During the meeting, IMF Mission Chief Dhaneshwar Ghura announced that his staff team now had the mandate of IMF management to discuss an economic programme for Zambia. Since 2017, this is the most important stage in our relationship with Zambia,” said the Mission Chief,” read the statement.

And in response, Dr Ng’andu said government was in support of the process and looking forward to the best possible outcome.

“Responding to the announcement by Dr Ghura that the staff team was now mandated to discuss an economic programme for Zambia, Dr Ng’andu welcomed the decision of the IMF management and further confirmed that the government, at the highest level, was in support of the process and is looking forward to the best possible outcome for the economy from the engagement. ‘The President (Edgar Chagwa Lungu) and the rest of Cabinet have today (Monday) reiterated their endorsement of our engagement with you. We are all looking forward to an outcome that will push our economy forward and bring relief to our people,” Dr Ng’andu stated,” the statement read.

Among the preliminary issues tabled in the initial contact virtual meeting was the overall macroeconomic environment, public financial management, fiscal accountability, the public debt situation, contracting of liability management advisors and commitment to economic reforms.

The Minister also briefed the Fund on various legislation that will be tabled on the floor of Parliament during the current session, such as the Planning and Budget Bill and the Public Procurement Bill.

During the current mission which ends on July 1, 2020, the IMF team will not only conduct virtual consultative and information exchange sessions with the central government, but also engage the Bank of Zambia (BoZ), Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and other stakeholders in the economy.

Among the top government officials, who were with Dr Ng’andu at the Ministry during the virtual meeting were: Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba, Permanent Secretary to Economic Management Mukuli Chikuba, Permanent Secretary Budget and Economic Affairs Mulenga Pamu, Accountant General Kennedy Musonda and Controller Internal Audit Mulonda Chibwe.

Others were Director Economic Management Maketo Mulele, Director Investment and Debt Management Gregory Chomba, together with Director Budget Joseph Nonde.