The first step towards Zambia getting out of its current economic crisis is for President Edgar Lungu and his government to be honest with the citizenry, Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) president Charles Milupi has observed.

And Milupi says effective austerity measures need to be announced by President Lungu if they are to have any real meaning.

In an interview, Monday, Milupi observed that President Lungu’s government were sending mixed messages to the country as opposed to telling the truth on Zambia’s economic malaise.

“Unfortunately, Mr Lungu and his government are sending mixed messages to the country and to all stakeholders in the economy. Were they would have expected the truth to come out saying ‘we have some real issues here’ so that everybody will put their heart into fighting to resuscitate the economy. But in one breath they are saying they are not worried and will get the economy going and so on. That sends a message throughout the populace that it is okay for things to continue as they are,” Milupi said.

“And if he goes into Mozambique and says ‘we are not worried about debt’ and in the next sentence says, ‘if one feels strangled then we can do this and that is where we are’, so he contradicts himself in these few sentences. He is saying that we are strangled, but earlier on said it’s not an issue. So, in order for this economy to get back on track, they need to start telling the truth! When they start telling the truth, they themselves will be held accountable in terms of the actions they take.”

And Milupi urged the Head of State to take charge of government’s austerity measures if they are to have any impact on the country’s economic recovery process.

“Not long ago, the Minister of Finance announced austerity measures, but how many times has President Lungu flown out since then? That’s why I said that for these austerity measures to have any meaning, they ought to have been announced by the Head of State himself because anything a minister announces, in our experience with Mr Lungu and his government, he can reverse whatever the Minister has announced,” he observed.

Milupi expressed serious concern at the widening fiscal deficit the country was grappling with.

“We in the opposition, because we are in touch with the grassroots, we know that our economy is on oxygen, in fact, in a coma! Starting with the (national) budget, which has a massive deficit; the fact that we are an over-borrowed nation, our Eurobonds, the yields have gone crazy and people are comparing us across the world as the worst performing! And we see that this is now affecting ordinary people,” said Milupi.

“It is now up to government to accept the status quo and put in real (austerity) measures that they themselves are willing to follow.”

Recently, Bloomberg reported that President Lungu insisted that Zambia, whose Eurobonds were trading at distressed levels, was still able to repay its debts and will soon emerge from the economic slump.

“When you find that you are being strangled by debt, you hold back and see how you can realign your position so that in the end you continue being alive, you don’t suffocate. That’s where we are now,” said President Lungu.