Delaying IMF bailout could affect economy’s resilience, warns Chikwanda

Former Finance Minister Alexandra Chikwanda shelds a PF cadre in Lusaka-Picture by Tenson Mkhala

Former Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda says all responsible citizens must encourage government to take an IMF bailout package because delaying to secure it will affect the Zambian economy’s resilience.

And Chikwanda says the opposition is incorrect to think that directing their efforts to check the excesses of government on President Edgar Lungu can bring him down because his approval ratings are high.

Meanwhile, Chikwanda says Africa is still poor because it has institutionalized mediocrity.

In an article titled “Patriotism (Love and Duty to the Country) is an Inescapable and Compelling Moral Imperative for all Citizens” circulated, Tuesday, Chikwanda noted that the IMF’s concerns on excess borrowing were plausible.

“A major problem the country has is to sustain expenditure on constitutional and statutory requirements, namely emoluments and public debt which account for more than 80% of the national budget. There are no easy solutions. We cannot reduce the size of the civil service without risks for service delivery and accentuating unemployment. However, government should take the plunge and decelerate the annual wages salary adjustments. As debt servicing becomes increasingly unsustainable, it is inevitable that except for concessionary facilities from multi-lateral institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, etc, the other types of borrowing be frozen which leaves scope to finance viable infrastructure through Public – Private Partnership (PPP). I have in the past noted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now less theological. The institution cannot depart from the ingrained habit of coming with a pre-ordained script from Washington DC. With pain, I admit that the IMF’s concerns about borrowings are plausible. The decline in our reserves is rather worrying so let us all responsible citizens urge our government to take the tough medicine – delay could affect the economy’s resilience. A program with the IMF gets a diversity of investors onboard. This is the ugly reality of our lop-sided world,” Chikwanda stated.

And Chikwanda stated that the opposition was incorrect to think that directing their efforts to check the excesses of government on President Lungu could bring him down because his approval ratings are high.

“The opposition parties and the free (cum opposition) media which in a way try to check the excesses of government misdirect their efforts by concentrating on the Republican and Patriotic Front leader, Mr. Edgar Lungu, with a misperception that they can bring him down. Mr. Lungu’s approval ratings in the PF is high and PF feel that the inroads the party is making in provinces where the party’s showing was weak in the past is essentially on account of those provinces’ perception of Mr. Lungu’s affability, humility and a spirit of fellowship. The ingrained diehard segments in opposition should also realise that it is not easy to wish away the numerous development projects going on throughout the country which has not been the case in the past,” he stated.

He stated that the opposition would do well to push for Constitutional amendments.
“A more credible opposition would have undressed the many flaws in the constitution because governance does impinge positively or negatively in the direction or impact of development. The present electoral system entails that parliamentary and Presidential candidates have to marshal large amounts of financial resources to dish out to the voters or leaders of opinion and influence. Isn’t this the genesis and recipe for corruption? It is also a requirement of the law which government cannot circumvent that when a vacancy occurs at the level of parliamentary or local government seat, a by-election is held within 90 days. The cost of by-elections is becoming increasingly unsustainable. It is a good thing for the country to scrupulously fulfil the requirements of the constitution but when health institutions go without drugs, a gloss over morality is difficult to justify,” Chikwanda stated.

“Other veritable electoral options such as proportional representation merit consideration. With the system of lists, by-elections and their exceedingly excessive costs are avoided. The voters are asked to endorse the ideas and programs of parties. Those leaders who are consigned to lose in Presidential elections will sit in parliament as long as their parties meet the minimum thresholds. Proportional representation also has fairer and more equitable representation and no personal-to-holder turfs. When there was a change-over to multi-party politics after a number of us confidants of President Kaunda persuaded him not to proceed with a costly referendum but amend an appropriate section of the constitution to reinstitute multi-partyism, all that happened was to craft multi-party politics onto the flawed one-party constitution. The implicit risks of the “privatisation” of the state were not addressed.”

He stated that it was time Zambians stopped playing the blame game and focused on developing the country.

“My admonition to all Zambians is that we have had enough of the blame game and daily screams of obscenities at each other. It is time to pull our very meagre intellectual resources to make Zambia a model country. The global economy is once again palpably slowing down and the headwinds of deceleration look quite gloomy and ominous. Like most of the continent, we are still unhealthily commodity dependent. The dip in commodities can take a downward spiralling at the whims and caprices of a few individual actors on the global stage such as the trump induced trade wars,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Chikwanda said Africa was still poor because it had institutionalized mediocrity.

“The entire sub-Saharan Africa, with over one billion people, has a gross national income that is less than France or the United Kingdom (just about $3 trillion). The continent’s two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, have a combined GDP that is scarcely bigger than that of the Netherlands – a country of 41,000 square kilometers in size and a population of 17 million people. Some critical issues are at the core and underlie Africa’s retardation. Key among the issues is appalling governance and sentiment and emotion driven decisions which naturally have zero or very little rationality content. The continent has, since liberation from colonialism, put a caveat on intellect and frowned upon depth in thinking and meritocracy – in the process generalising and institutionalising mediocrity. In sociological terms, this is partly because we are transitioning from ascriptive societies (hierarchy-based) to modern achievement based societies,” stated Chikwanda.

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