Kapiri Mposhi UPND member of parliament Stanley Kakubo says government’s decision to allocate K636 million towards the Sinking Fund in the 2020 national budget is unrealistic because they have never deposited any money in it.

Debating in Parliament, Kakubo noted that in the past successive fiscal years, government had failed to deposit any money in the sinking fund account as evidenced by lack of full disclosure on the account’s current balance. ahead of the first US$750 million Eurobond bullet payment in 2022.

He argued that the economic challenges Zambia faced had not been properly responded to in next year’s budget.

“The challenges we are going through, Madam Speaker, have not been responded to in this budget. They (PF) are budgeting, but are not releasing funds! What are we doing? For the past three years, the PF has refused to acknowledge that the country is highly indebted. The (former) Minister of Finance (Alexander Chikwanda) came to this House a few years ago and created what they are calling the Sinking Fund. It provided hope and we are thinking, maybe, we could hedge the country against the default in future, especially against the Eurobond,” Kakubo said.

“The former Minister of Finance brought a budget of K100 million towards the Sinking Fund; they never put any money in it! The following year, they brought another budget for K100 million for the Sinking Fund [and] again, they deposited nothing in it. The new Minister of Finance has also done the same thing. He has upped the budget to K600 million (actual: K636 million) of the position that his own government has not been able to put any money in. So, on what basis is he increasing? I am worried! I don’t expect them to release anything in 2020. This budget cannot be relied upon because the authors of the budget have told untruths in this House before. Not once, not twice but several times! That is a major concern.”

Kakubo charged that the current Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu had no intention of correcting the mistakes of his predecessors.

“We are a nation that has moved from an economy that was growing at 7.4 per cent a few years ago to only two per cent today. We are a nation whose (international gross) reserves have suddenly begun to suffer from hemorrhage. Our reserves are in decline! Our exposition as a nation is bad. This means that our government is no longer making savings. What is more difficult is that, they have spent the savings that they themselves did not even create. They inherited them when they took over office in 2011. It appears to me that the Minister of Finance has no intention whatsoever to correct the mistakes of his predecessor. He has fitted into the shoes and, unfortunately, he has tied the laces as well, and that is a big problem,” Kakubo complained.

He wondered why the PF were wasting the country’s time by not concluding a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“While our currency has been depreciating from the K4 they found to the K13.5 (per) dollar, the Ghanaians are at five units of their currency per cedes to a dollar. While the PF, for a long time, have been wasting the country’s time by not concluding the deal with the IMF, they have been flirting with the idea. Our Ghanaian counterparts signed up with IMF a long time and they are building on their reserves. The PF will not do that, why?” wondered Kakubo.