Getting a loan in Zambia is as good as tying a rope around your neck because interest rates are the highest in the region, says Kalomo Central UPND member of parliament Harry Kamboni.

And Kamboni says the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry is as “silent as water,” yet it is meant to help with job creation.

Debating the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in Parliament, Wednesday, Kamboni observed that if the Ministry, headed by Malole member of parliament Christopher Yaluma, was vibrant, it could solve most economic challenges in the country, but has remained quiet.

“This Ministry is as silent as water and yet this is a Ministry that would help create jobs. This is a Ministry which can solve most of the problems the youths are facing, including the old. We have a crisis of jobs in this country! If this Ministry was vibrant, it could solve most of the problems the country is facing. Unfortunately, it’s quiet as if it doesn’t even exist,” Kamboni observed.

And he said doing business in Zambia was the most difficult thing one could ever do, adding that getting a loan was as good as tying a rope around one’s neck due to high interest rates on loan facilities.

Commercial banks’ nominal average lending rates have only marginally reduced to around 23 per cent in the third quarter from 24.3 per cent in June, according to Bank of Zambia data.

“It is difficult because the environment is very hostile. Once you want to do business, you will be terribly bruised. You look for the source of money, which is capital, the interest rates are terrible! Getting a loan in Zambia, now, is as good as putting a rope around your neck, as if you want to commit suicide! The interest rates are the highest in the region. Let’s say you get a loan to build a hotel, before you even finish building, you will have paid so much interest! The same loan you got would have gone back to pay the interest. The Ministry of Commerce is quiet,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, Kamboni said high taxes were also discouraging business in Zambia.

“One area that is discouraging businessmen is tax. Even getting licenses is terrible. When you open a guest house, the council will come: ‘you need a license from us for you to do business’; tomorrow the Ministry of Tourism will also come: ‘you are operating illegally, you need a license’; you will have six, seven categories coming. That discourages any businessman. The taxes that businessmen are paying are too much! And when investors come, they end up going to other countries leaving this country,” he argued.

Kamboni urged the Ministry of Commerce to sit down with other ministries that were involved in introducing Statutory Instruments (SI’s) and ensure that the environment for doing business was conducive.

“The first thing the Ministry of Commerce should do is to sit with all the ministries that are involved in putting these SI’s. Sit down and make sure that the environment for doing business is conducive. In this country, we need economic engineers, otherwise, what we have now does not give any hope,” complained Kamboni