FORMER commerce minister Bob Sichinga says China’s decision to freeze funding towards the Kafue Gorge Power Project is a reflection of that country’s resistance to Zambia’s debt restructuring programme.
And Sichinga observes that the manner in which government has handled economic powers has not shown balance.
In an interview, Monday, Sichinga said government needed to attach a similar level of importance to all economic powers.
“So from my point of view the situation with Kafue Lower Gorge financing, it is quite clear, it is a reflection of China’s resistance to the way the scheduling has got to be. So you needed to clear that before so that they can come on board. So that is what you do when you are merging things like that, you need to be very very careful. Countries are very sensitive and especially big countries who think they are big, who think they are very important. The way we have handled the economic powers has not shown balance. So yes, it is a reflection of how China feels about how we have treated them and I don’t know, I must empathise, I don’t know if any special emissary, a special envoy has been sent to China,” Sichinga said.
“What I am saying is that’s not what we do in diplomacy, you weigh them. But you have made a trip, even if it was for UNGA you have made a trip to United States, you held meetings in United States even with the vice president; we all believe it that way. There, it becomes a very important issue and China wants to be treated the same way, Britain wanted to be treated the same way that is why they are sending their ministers here.”
He said it was clear government had not done its homework regarding China.
“You need to understand the geopolitical dynamics. And quite frankly, I am clear in my mind we have not done that homework with regards to China. The President made a trip, or be it that he had gone for UNGA, but he went to the United States. What does that do? It means like United States has an upper hand. That is the way it is read in diplomacy. We look at profile who is providing what capital, what is the funding like, what is the geopolitical dynamics between them so that when you do that, you probably have to prepare a trip to the other side to counter that so that it not misunderstood,” Sichinga said.
Meanwhile, Sichinga said government needed to be aware that not all countries supported the IMF.
“There are certain countries that are concerned about the behavior of IMF, you have to understand who controls IMF. So if they are in conflict with other countries, what happens? The other countries develop cold feet, they are not so sure that this is just a manipulation by United States so you need to be very very careful. Now IMF is very important in terms of support to be seen to have arrived at agreements but not all countries rely on IMF. The west may, but the east bloc, Russia and any other that we are owing money to may have a different position,” Sichinga said.
“So that is why I said that you needed to discuss that exclusively with each of the big powers and that is why I said you cannot treat China on a level as say another African country who has not provided you with any credit.”
Sichinga said going forward, it was important to have back up funding when embarking on any project.
“And also for future purposes, this is why it is never a good idea to rely on one financial. It is not a good idea; it is not good strategy at all. Now one cannot put it on UPND because UPND was not in power and decided on this. It was decided by somebody else. I am just saying that for future purposes, we need to be mindful,” said Sichinga.