Newly-appointed Minister of Finance Dr Bwalya Ng’andu now faces the daunting challenge of dealing with the Patriotic Front government’s self-serving nature amidst the need to implement austerity measures, says former Secretary to Cabinet Dr Sketchely Sacika.

In an interview, Dr Sacika observed that Dr Ng’andu faced the challenge of dealing with PF government’s excessive expenditure, which fell contrary to the need to cut costs and effectively implement much-needed austerity measures.

“Zambia may be likened to a very fat man who is in danger of causing irreparable damage to his health, unless he loses weight. Such a person must be prepared to give up a lot of goodies and follow a regime of exercise that will lead to the recovery of good health. Unless he’s prepared to make such sacrifices, he will surely die! The challenge for the new Minister of Finance, Bwalya Ng’andu, therefore, is to appreciate the gravity of our economic problems, together with the dangers they may cause to the wellbeing of our country. Poorly managed economies lead to political instability, the results of which may be harmful to society in the long-term,” Dr Sacika said.

“The Russian revolution in 1992 was caused by a poorly performing economy in Russia, and recently in Sudan, the high price of bread led to overthrow of the government. Bwalya Ng’andu is a person I know very well and I think he has the potential to make a very good Minister of Finance, but he’ll be up against a bureaucracy, which is reactionary. A bureaucracy, which is not oriented to watch producing results, but which is only interested in self-preservation. This is the problem Bwalya Ng’andu is going to encounter.”

And Dr Sacika asked Dr Ng’andu to consider scaling-down the Zambia’s missions abroad as one way of strengthening the country’s struggling economy.

“For any austerity measures to succeed, they must be thorough and far-reaching and there should be no sacred cows. Government functions that are not critical to the survival of the nation must be closed down. This includes reducing the size of our diplomatic missions abroad. But already, our Minister of Foreign Affairs is reported to have said that the austerity measures the government is taking will not apply to our diplomatic service. This is already a setback to what Bwalya Ng’andu is expected and, indeed, required to do. When comrade KK was faced with an equally dire economic situation here at home, he closed down several missions abroad as an austerity measure,” Dr Sacika said.

“At the time UNIP left office in 1991, there were only 25 diplomatic missions abroad. But this number has grown to around 40 and we have diplomatic missions in countries where we should not be, merely because the people in government want to create jobs for their friends and supporters. But what is the point of keeping diplomatic missions that are poorly funded as our missions are or spending the nation’s scarce resources on foreign missions that are not productive? So, Bwalya Ng’andu must do what comrade KK did. He must look at all this in spite of what his friend Joe Malanji has said. He must look at the whole diplomatic service and do the necessary surgery so that at the end of the day, we can do away with those missions that are not productive as an austerity measure.”

He added that Zambia had to look for her own way out of the debt crisis and economic challenges.

“Zambia was lucky to have had her external debt of US $7 billion accumulated during comrade KK’s reign forgiven, thanks to the 2000 Jubilee Initiative. But as things stand, how are we going to pay back the over US $10 billion we owe the international community if we do not change our spending habits? Our leader should learn to manage the affairs of our country with a greater sense of responsibility. As Zambia, we have made too many mistakes and it is time to turn a new leaf and manage our affairs in more responsible way,” said Dr Sacika.