Robert Sichinga says it is regrettable that Zambians are now paying for the Patriotic Front’s mismanagement of the economy by having to bear the escalating cost of living.
And Sichinga, the former Minister of Commerce, says if President Edgar Lungu fails to manage the economy, it will manage him.
He said in an interview that it was pointless to criticise the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) for the increased fuel prices, explaining that the regulator did not have a choice but to increase the prices as they are driven by external factors.
“When you spend money beyond your means, it will create inflation. When you spend money you do not have, it will cause the exchange rate to be adversely affected. So the big problem is not ERB at the moment, that’s a consequence. The big problem is with those that are supposed to be responsible for the management of the foreign exchange business, those that are responsible for the fiscal financing. In other words, if you say you are going to have austerity measures, you need to have austerity measures. But instead, they are spending money which they do not have and this is what the consequence is. This unfortunate because the impact this is going to have will be devastating because everything will go up in price. That will cause even more inflation,” Sichinga said.
“We are back into this spiral that we have been talking about. The upward spiral for inflation, the downward spiral for economic performance, upward spiral for cost… everything will go up as a result of this. For people who use businesses and minibuses, all the prices will go up and who is going to pay for that? It’s the consumer that pays the price because of this mismanagement, the economic mismanagement by the government. So the full responsibility for all this must be taken by Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu himself, he should take responsibility for this. And this is what we have been advising them, the fear that we had was exactly this. Where do you top this? This is most unfortunate, it’s a disaster. If all you can do is to increase electricity tariffs…it’s terrible. How do you recover it? Who is [going to] recover it? What kind of businesses would he be running to be able to cover that kind of cost? This just means that your economy has collapsed. This is very unfortunate and this is why the mismanagement of the economy must always be guarded. We must work to stop this.”
He regretted that President Edgar Lungu had not been responsive to the advice given to him on how to improve and manage the economy.
“I have advised Mr Lungu in writing. I said to him, if he doesn’t manage the economy, then the economy will mange him. Unfortunately, it is affecting people who were not party to the decision making. People who never participated in making the wrong decisions, this is affecting them the most. Any business person is going to suffer… This is also going to increase the cost of living for the ordinary citizens because this increase will work its way right through the economic system. Interest rates will also go up because you need to recover the money. The cost of importation will also go up, any import that you bring will now have to be charged at a higher rate because of the exchange rate and therefore, when it comes in, you now have to pay even more,” Sichinga said.
“So all these things are going to impact the economy negatively. How can you have production at these rate? And where do you sell the products to? Everything will just go up in price because people have to cover the cost of electricity, people have to cover the cost of fuel. So you are just punishing people who were not part of your mismanagement and your bad decisions.”
He said the only way out of the current economic crisis for Zambians was change of government.
“I have said this before and I will say it again, you can have as may Ministers of Finance as you want but if you do not have the right principles and direction of running the country, you are simply going to waste their time. They cannot do this on their own. The whole government system under the President must be the one that changes. Basically, our brothers and sisters in government cannot manage this, it’s beyond their capacity. So we have to make operations to this, the people of Zambia finally have to make a decision. This leadership has failed us unfortunately and we have to change it,” said Sichinga.