Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu should urgently engage the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to address Zambia’s economic challenges that were left behind by veteran politician Alexander Chikwanda, says FDD president Edith Nawakwi.

And Nawakwi says Zambians must prepare for a bitter pill that will come with the bailout package from the IMF because they will not be asked to tighten belts but their “skirts” this time around.

The former finance minister also advised Zambians to become climate smart and utilize resources for them to be more resilient to external shocks.

Nawakwi told journalists that Dr Ng’andu should urgently craft a plan on how to resolve the country’s huge indebtedness left behind by Chikwanda who served in the position between 2011 and 2016, and left government with a huge debt stock, including US $3 billion worth of Eurobonds.

She added that as a matter of urgency, it was important for Dr Ng’andu to engage the IMF to finally secure an economic bailout programme that could address the country’s fiscal challenges.

“Going forward, it is important that our Minister of Finance sits down, as a matter of urgency, with the International Monetary Fund. I know it will be extremely bitter; it will be bitter than in the 1990s when we were being asked to tighten our belts. This time, we will be asked to tighten our skirts because the pill that will come with the package of IMF will be beyond our imagination! It will be extremely bitter, but it will be a necessary pill. I am looking forward to…the Minister crafting a plan on how we resolve the indebtedness that was bequeathed to us by our former Minister Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda, MP,” Nawakwi said.

She also observed that Zambians had left an extremely hard year behind them, adding that it was important that every citizen worked on creating household food security.

“We have left an extremely hard year behind us. We faced power outages, which have crippled most of the industries around us. There are a lot of people who have closed up. There has been a lot of downsizing. There is the devastating drought, which has hit us continuously for two consecutive years and I get this distinct feeling that south of Zambia, we are faced with the same problem, which will be three years in running. This requires creative and innovative thinking. It is important that every able-bodied Zambian does something about creating household food security within their homes, their households or to assist other families,” Nawakwi said.

She, however, said Zambia was not all on its knees as half the country was blessed with a good climate.

Nawakwi noted that was important for those in the southern part of the country to consider having their fields in areas with a good climate.

“My advice is, Zambia is not all on its knees. We have half the country blessed with a very good climate. It is important for those of us who like the urban glitter of Lusaka, Livingstone and Monze to start thinking about, maybe, not migrating, but about having our fields in Mbala, Nakonde, Nyala, North-Western Province and those areas. It is very important that we become climate smart and be able to utilize the resources that are before us; the waters of Zambezi; the waters of the Kafue and Chambeshi River. We should all now realize that time is gone when we used to look up to our heavens to open up for us to feed ourselves. It is now time to us to start thinking, working and acting creatively,” said Nawakwi.