Finance Minister Felix Mutati has warned government officials against engaging in idle and aimless debates on the country’s engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying some negative statements were unprogressive.

Speaking when he featured on a ZNBC special programme, Mutati said Zambia was too poor to select who could help its fiscal position.

“Let’s bring ideas to the table than engaging in premature debates about the programme. The debates should be how can they help and think together with government’s collective wisdom? how can we enhance this performance so that it is much more solid, much more injective, much more inclusive for the people of Zambia? This is a critical point, that should be the debate,” Mutati said.

“You can’t begin to say that we don’t need it, how are you going to grow the economy? You don’t need China, how are you going to grow the economy? You don’t need EU, how are you going to grow the economy? Our economy is so small, so the issue is not selecting A, B, C, D or E. It the combination of everybody for us to grow the economy, so the debate shouldn’t be aimless about selecting, how can you select when you are so poor? We are not yet there,” he said.

“Until we get there the choices are limited so let’s not have this idle debate, do we need them? that’s not the debate, the debate should be how do we grow, stabilize and grow the economy? How do we create the jobs, how do we bring in investments that should be the argument?”

Mutati said government was in control of negotiations with the IMF on an economic bailout package.

“Our engagement with IMF as Zambia has been on the basis of home grown Zambia Plus programme. And the reason we are bringing in IMF is to support our external sector, the balance of payment support. So the programme with IMF is under control, we have shifted from the pre-conditionality of doing things saying ‘you must, you must’ to benchmarking and all we are saying in that programme is, for example, ‘you are going to maintain your fiscal deficit of not more than 7.4% of GDP for 2017, is the answer yes or no?’ We said yes. So all they are doing is monitoring the things that we said ourselves we will do, so don’t worry, we are in control. We are the masters of our program, we are the masters of the implementation, we are the masters of driving that programme, we are in charge,” said Mutati.

“We will remain in charge and in control because we are the ones that are accountable to the people of Zambia. If we fail, its government that is going to be held responsible. We are the ones that must take the decisions on everything that we do. And that’s why we have our own home grown program as the basis of engagement, as the basis of telling IMF that this is what we are able to do in 2017,2018 ,2019 and going forward.”