Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi says government needs to beg for assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to address the current economic situation because there is no other option.
And Nawakwi says it was unparliamentary for UPND members of parliament to walk out of the House when government sought to re-introduce Bill 10 on the Order Paper.
Speaking on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, Thursday, Nawakwi, a former finance minister, said although painful, the IMF’s assistance was needed for the country to restructure its commercial debt.
“The question now is how do we move forward? We need to go begging to the IMF! I want to tell you that there is no way out of it. For the commercial debt that we have borrowed, we need to get IMF on our side so that we restructure it and we [will] be able to release some money into the social sectors. We are in such [a] desperate situation that the current conditions are not very good but if we don’t go to the IMF, they will get worse! And I want to say that even if we go to the IMF the conditionalities will be more painful than the current,” Nawakwi said.
“The IMF is one side to quiet the international community on the indebtedness that we have. For us locally, let us sit down as a people, what can we do? I have noticed that in any year we had a bumper harvest, the Gross Domestic Product was positive; meaning we had more money per individual. So, now it is raining, let us get every boded Zambians to be supported by our government to produce something. If 14 million people each produced one bag, we would have 14 million bags. I don’t think we would eat 14 million bags, we can export maybe seven [million]. So the whole the point is that if maize in the DRC is going at K500 per bag, let us seize that opportunity and deliver the consignments and at the same time feed our people and money will come into our Treasury.”
She recalled advising former finance minister Alexander Chikwada to desist from over borrowing as it would land the country into hell.
“I raised an alarm, I said the way my brother Alexander Chikwanda was borrowing money like a confetti was going to land us where we are today. There is no nation on earth that does not borrow but you need to define what you are borrowing for. It is just like a small business if you borrow and you buy a Mercedes, you be asked to pay back. And we have found ourselves in those situations as individuals and a nation. I said this thing was going to land us in hell. Two years ago, I said by the end of this year, we are going to hit 20 [billion in debt] look where we are. I think the mistake we made as a nation was to go out in the world in the commercial window to go and borrow money from the commercial window,” she said.
“That money we borrowed is now costing us 18 per cent. What method are we going to use pay it? We have to pay back the Eurobond, we can’t default! Mind you, all these rating agencies are usually meant to tell creditors that, that country may default.”
And Nawakwi said it was unparliamentary for UPND members of parliament to walk out on Bill 10.
“You know what, I was a legislator. In the Commonwealth Parliamentary palace, when a bill is presented, the members of parliament may have a bill in front of them; the purpose of taking it to parliament is for MPs to agree or disagree. There are provisions when a bill is read for the first time to debate it then comes second reading when they say ‘any debate’ that is the time when you see the prowess of members of parliament. [Walking away] is not a solution I was member of parliament, it shows me that they don’t understand what they are supposed to do. Why walk away? They said we want to restore the bill on the order paper; it is a procedure. If it didn’t go the order paper at the end of the year, it could have lapsed. And for them walking away, not wanting it to be on the order paper allowed government to put it on the order paper,” Nawakwi said.
“So it doesn’t help! You need to debate, show your reasons so that future prosperity, you and me can go to the library and say ‘honorable Jack Mwiimbu this, this is what he said’, but to just say when the leader of the House just said ‘I bring a bill on the order paper for debate in February’, it is just an order, an agenda for February they could have debated it and said ‘no we need to take this bill back to the people to go and discuss it’, that was the moment where you see vicious MPs. The habit of walking away is unparliamentary.”
She said deferring the bill to February would give the members of parliament ample time to debate the bill.
Meanwhile, Nawakwi said the FDD was in support of Bill 10 because it had no contentious issues.
“What’s so controversial about Bill 10? The challenge that we have here is that our MPs don’t educate us…I want to say that I stand by Bill 10. You use the words controversial but you don’t tell me what is controversial in the bill,” said Nawakwi.