FINANCE Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu says the six former government officials that wrote a letter to President Edgar Lungu on the state of Zambia’s economy had a different objective other than a genuine intention to offer advice.

And Dr Ng’andu says President Lungu cannot respond to a letter which was publicised in the manner it was, adding that personally, he would have been ready to meet his predecessors had they sought an audience with him.

Meanwhile, Dr Ng’andu says it is not his decision to make if Parliament must reconvene and restructure the 2020 budget, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with News Diggers! Dr Ng’andu said President Lungu could not respond to a letter which was addressed to him in that manner.

He also explained that everything that was contained in the said letter was in his fourth quarter briefing.

“Yes, I read the letter. If the officials really wanted the President to respond to that letter, they would have written to him directly not in the manner they did. Do you really think the President should respond to a letter which was placed in a newspaper in the manner it was done? Is that the way you address the President? Did you read the statement I gave at the end of the fourth quarter? If you read that, you will find that all the things they have said are contained in my briefing, and read the letter they wrote then you can come at your own conclusion,” Dr Ng’andu said.

When asked if the officials sought an audience with him before the letter was published, Dr Ng’andu said; “No, not all. [But] all of them know where to find me, they have my contacts.”

He said the former government officials had an unknown objective.

“If they wanted to have an audience with me, I would have been very happy to have an audience with them and answered their questions but I don’t believe that was the objective. The objective was something else, what it is, I don’t know. They know me and I know them very well so if they wanted to have a conversation with me, they would have, but they didn’t. They chose the forum of public media in the way they did but that is their choice I suppose that is freedom of expression but I don’t believe that the President should respond to a letter which was written in that manner. If they had addressed to me directly, I am sure the President would have been glad but we don’t think that that was the objective,” he said

And Dr Ng’andu says it is not his place to decide if parliament should convene to reconsider the 2020 budget.

“It is not my job to convene parliament. Anybody can say whatever they want to say but it is not my job I am sure if the Speaker (Dr Patrick Matibini) wants to convene parliament, he can. There was a reason why parliament was deferred and the reasons are very clear. If the Speaker thinks it is appropriate, he will give direction,” said Dr Ng’andu.

Two weeks ago, former Bank of Zambia Governor Dr Caleb Fundanga, former finance ministers Ng’andu Magande, Dr Situmbeko Musokwatane and Felix Mutati, former Commerce minister Dipak Patel and former Economic Advisor to late President Levy Mwanawasa wrote a letter to President Lungu and Dr Ng’andu expressing concern over Zambia’s current debt position.

“It may be true that external factors (climate change and COVID-19) have damaged the Zambian economy. But the main cause is man-made policy mistakes. The most significant mistake is excessive borrowing by the government, as well as inefficient and/or low priority use if funds. The Government needs to act now. We believe that Government must rapidly conclude a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This matter has been on the table for more than five years, without reaching a deal. We urge the government to take this matter with the seriousness that it deserves, and to come to an agreement before the end of this year. We believe that the most important matter in our economy is the debt problem. Excessive debt drives many of the current problems- huge repayments already mean that Government cannot fund budgeted programs, mounting arrears are accumulating on many government contracts, and the business climate is strangulated,” read the letter in part.