GOVERNMENT must be bold and tell the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the truth that Zambia urgently needs to access funds for balance of payments support because the Kwacha depreciation has made it difficult to repay all loans, says Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi.
And Nawakwi has urged UPND members of parliament not to walk out of Parliament when the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 is tabled for Second Reading.
Meanwhile, Nawakwi says lawyers debating President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility to stand for the 2021 general election are misleading the nation.
Speaking when she featured on United Voice Radio’s Add Your Voice Radio programme, Wednesday, Nawakwi said there was need for government to be honest and admit to the IMF that the country urgently required balance of payments support amidst a rapidly depreciating kwacha, which made it difficult to repay all loans contracted.
She lamented that government had since 2012 failed to invest borrowed funds, including from the three Eurobonds contracted in 2012, 2014 and 2015, into tangible projects that could have yielded a return because government officials chewed the proceeds.
“One would rush to make an assessment that we are in a very dismal situation, no. We are not in a situation where other countries have reached like Greece. We still have an opportunity. If you are in these countries, there are no opportunities. Here, in our country, we are not at the level of Lebanon, we still have a chance to adjust and I will make the following suggestions: the money was borrowed and not invested in the railway lines; if we had invested in the railway lines, by now, we would be earning returns from the railway lines. Luckily now, Kafue Gorge is coming on stream, but it is not from the Eurobond unless I am wrong. It is money from China. We need to ask Honourable (Alexander) Chikwanda to show us where he invested the money so that we can get the money and pay back the creditors, that is history…we can’t flog a dead horse! We need to be bold enough and tell the IMF we don’t want to default like Lebanon has done, but we can go to the IMF and not say to them that, ‘look, we borrowed, but we didn’t invest’ but we can say, ‘that the exchange rate depreciation has caused us to be in the precarious situation where the money we are collecting from the taxes is not able to cover the cost of the Eurobond. And, therefore, we can ask the IMF to give us balance of payments support, we cover the cost of debt servicing. That is how in my little time in the Ministry (of Finance) we structured these things,” Nawakwi said.
“We need people who can cleverly structure this thing. It is not the first country to borrow and the exchange rate is sliding downhill. Don’t talk about the fact that we chewed the money, just talk about the income is not able to cover. My proposal is that we go to the IMF own up, say: ‘purely on economic terms even if the economy was doing well, and the exchange rate goes to this level we can’t pay.’ The IMF has restructured economies purely on exchange rate depreciation and they will tell you that, ‘do this,’ let us bite the bullet and do what they tell us to do. Once the IMF is on our side, we go to the World Bank and get social funds for investing in education, roads and all that and then, with the support from the IMF, we go to these Europeans who are holding the bonds. There are also some Zambians, who are holing these bonds so you can renegotiate.”
And Nawakwi called on the opposition to support Bill 10.
“There is need to review the Public Order Act, government is agreed to that. The people, who don’t want to review the POA are the options in the Parliament so how do you manage elections? It is not from State House that you manage elections, it is from the Electoral Commission of Zambia. We, as opposition parties, we agreed that we need to review the Electoral Process Act. My brothers came out crying that they were excluded in Chilubi! I said, what is good for the boss is also good for the worker. We were abused in Namwala, my colleagues in the opposition did not say a word! So, the solution lies in us agreeing to review the POA. Instead of us as opposition sitting down in Parliament and changing this we are walking out. Please napapata (I am begging) my brothers and sisters in Parliament let us change the POA before 2021. Let us give the ECZ chairperson power. Those honourable MPs should do us a favour and not walk out,” Nawakwi urged.
When asked by host Patrick Nkama to comment on the eligibility debate, Nawakwi argued that lawyers were misleading the nation.
“Honestly speaking, I am not a lawyer, and what I observed that when there are four lawyers in the country, they have different opinions. The people debating it are lawyers, they need to guide the nation in a correct direction. When the courts of law have pronounced, I think we need to (abide) by the pronouncements by the court of law. I listened to my brother Wynter (Kabimba), he had a totally different tangent; I listened to my brother (John) Sangwa, S.C., he had a totally different tangent. What prompted us in 2001 was a clear breach of the rules we had set; that was a totally different scenario. We have a new Constitution; it has spelled new rules. The question the nation needs to ask is: ‘can you apply it in a way that you believe you think?’ I think the lawyers are misleading us. They need to be clear on what they are saying. Unfortunately, the people who are saying this are all interested parties. It appears to me that they want to knock out their brother from the race so that the field is clear,” argued Nawakwi.