INFRASTRUCTURE, Housing and Urban Development Minister Charles Milupi says government currently owes contractors, engineers and consultants K14.11 billion in terms of road infrastructure.
Responding to a question in Parliament from Roan independent member of parliament Joel Chibuye on what measures were being put in place to realise resources in the Ministry in order to complete outstanding projects, Milupi said the Ministry faced a number of challenges including debt, which government was trying to restructure.
“Yes, we do have difficulties with funds, especially with regards to the debt. In terms of road infrastructure, we owe contractors, engineers, consultants about K14.11 billion already. So that money has to be found. This constrains even the next budget going forward because what is owed needs also to be paid. So, we have looked at other alternatives, the Minister of Finance working of course with the President and the rest of government are doing their best to restructure this debt, so that we can have fiscal space, release money from the interest payments that we are currently having to provide for. So that extra money that is saved, can be used on other sectors, including infrastructure development,” Milupi said.
“I ask all members here on both sides of the House to help this government to achieve the infrastructure development we want to achieve even when we have this shortage of funds. We require help from members of parliament here because they are aware of potential roads that can be done on a PPP basis because revenues coming from there can be used to pay back the costs of constructing those roads. This is the route that we are going to undertake on a number of roads where we know that clearly those investors, contractors and financers will be [able] to recoup their money.”
He said the money that government would get from local generated revenues would be directed towards roads that did not attract Public Private Partnership (PPP).
“As a government, we shall ensure that the roads are done to quality, maybe even to higher quality than we have seen hitherto. Also, the cost must be the right cost because that will determine the concession period. We do not want to give our assets away for a longer period than it is absolutely necessary and ensure that when that is done, first of all, these projects are delivered on time and make sure that our people are able to utilise those resources,” Milupi said.
“One thing that we will do in the next financial year, those roads that will obviously not attract PPP, cannot attract investors, the money we are able to get from the local generated revenues will be directed towards those areas which cannot attract PPPs.”
And responding to a question from Matero PF member of parliament Miles Sampa on the debt owed to local contractors and suppliers, Milupi said government was considering all angles to ensure that the local debt was cleared off.
“The answer to his question is pushing us towards borrowing, where we have insufficient locally generated revenues. The only way you can undertake these things including paying these huge amounts of money including the K14 billion we are talking about is to borrow. That has to be looked at very carefully in view of the fact that we are already an overborrowed nation. All these matters will be revealed,” said Milupi.
“When these matters are completely revealed including the restructuring and also the budget, we then will be able to release money on concerns that our engineers, contractors especially the Zambians ones, are owed these huge amounts of money. Please be comforted in the knowledge that this government is aware of these issues that they inherited a problem which they ought to put right by considering all angles.”