Center for Trade and Policy Development (CTPD) executive director Isaac Mwaipopo says the proposal in the Constitution Amendment Bill to reduce powers of Parliament with regards to debt collection is it is retrogressive.
The Proposed constitution amendment Article 92 (C) indicates that the power of the National Assembly to ratify international agreement or treaties is removed and this power becomes the Executive’s, making that arm of government free to borrow whether locally and internationally without Parliament’s approval.
But in an interview, Mwaipopo said if the proposal was to be enacted, it would worsen the lack of transparency with regards debt contraction.
“We are in agreement with other civil society organizations that have raised concerns with some of the proposals that are contended in the NDF. Key among those also border around public finance management. If we look at our country today, it is in huge debts estimated to be over US$10 billion in terms of external debt. And one of the key provisions we have had in the Constitution is an issue of oversight from members of parliament which we have not made very good use of in that a number of Members of Parliament that we have do not even know [about it]. If we look at the debt that we have, most of the Members of Parliament don’t know the terms and conditions under which it was contracted because if that provision that will have that was providing that members of parliament can have access to with regards to debt,” Mwaipopo said.
“But this time around we would have a good idea in terms of the terms and conditions under which we get loans let’s say from China. Most of them would have an idea in terms what we call the pipeline loans, those that have not yet matured to be added up to our debt It is very retrogressive for the NDF who are now trying to take away even that provision, weak as it may be, in the current set up. So there is need to ensure that we do not go that route if we are to protect the integrity of the Constitution and if we are also to protect the integrity of institutions like Parliament and also protect the future of this country. As Center for Trade Development we think it is retrogressive to reduce powers of Parliament when providing over sight on debt. We also think it is retrogressive to reduce the powers that are hosted in a strategic institution like Financial Intelligence Centre.”
He insisted that lack of transparency on debt was bad for Zambia.
“The big concern that we have had as civil society, from the Center for Trade Policy and Development with the debt that has been accumulated has been the lack of transparency on the way we are acquiring. So we acquire this debt by giving reasons which might seem genuine from the onset that we want to construct roads but if you look at the information that is provided the is lack of transparency in the actual cost for some of these projects. One practical example which I can cite is the Ndola- Lusaka dual carriage way which has been contested for long time and there is an admission from government institutions that it was not properly costed and that there is need to re-look at that,” said Mwaipopo.
“The bearing of such bad choices and lack of transparency is that the burden will fall on the Zambians to actually pay for that. Some people have also asked around some infrastructure development it is very important for every country to put in place the right infrastructure. What has been concerning with regards to the infrastructure that we have been developing is that we have not seen much being done to open up places where agricultures activities are taking place. Places where we can encourage value addition activities to such as manufacturing to take place. We have seen more of the roads being constructed in townships but if you mark those townships, they are not production houses. They do not create jobs like that. So if we were to create job opportunities and expand business opportunities for the Zambians we need to open up places concentrate on places where there farmers, places where manufacturing is taking place and places where we are producing raw materials that can feed into industries.”