FORMER Bank of Zambia (BOZ) governor Dr Caleb Fundanga says it will be selfish for him to keep quiet on matters concerning Zambia’s debt when he was one of the people that played a key role in having it liquidated.
And Dr Fundanga says Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu should be happy that the six former government officials that wrote a letter to him and President Edgar Lungu are rallying behind him.
On Tuesday, Dr Nga’ndu alleged that the former officials had a motive and would have sought his audience privately.
But in an exclusive interview with News Diggers!, Dr Fundanga said the solutions were much more important than the interpretations of their letter.
“When we wrote that letter, we were contributing as citizens in this country. We know that for the past five years, there have been attempts to get the IMF without success. I know they are trying to put all sorts of things but you know that some of us…in 2018, I presented a paper to the Economics Association of Zambia, which was very detailed about the emerging problems of Zambia’s debt. It indicated clearly where we had reached and the consequences of not taking necessary measures. Those are our contributions, they are in the public domain. I presented at the Pamodzi Hotel and everybody was there,” Dr Funganga said.
“If it is a question of making information available, that was done unlike the normal statements people make. I don’t know whether they require us to make personal appeals. But let me not talk about personal appeals personally because I know other things that I have done which need not to come in the public domain. But these debt issues have been in public domain for a long time; we have made presentations at the seminars here in Lusaka. We have been making contributions to the debt debate for a long time, so I don’t know what is required. And for some of us, we participated in clearing Zambia’s debt and now when we see debt accumulating, shouldn’t that be of worry to us?”
He said the issue of rising external debt was a public concern that must be dealt with using all available solutions at the government’s disposal.
“I did not even think that I would ever issue a statement on this matter because it is not even a matter for debate, it is an obvious matter. We have to share the little foreign exchange we have with the debt repayment. Those are concerns of any normal citizen. It is not about a foreign solution, the debt itself is a foreign debt, isn’t it? So sometimes I get amazed when people are saying ‘we don’t want foreign solutions’ but the borrowing itself has a foreign solution,” Dr Fundanga said. “If people didn’t want a foreign solution, they would not have borrowed money. We borrowed so let’s look for a solution rather than going on quarrelling without making any sense. The minister said we should have consulted, I am sure other colleagues have done the consultations, there are various ways in which we can help.”
He said solutions to economic problems would be found through different contributions.
“Even the former finance minister [Alexander] Chikwanda was quoted that the only solution we need is the IMF, so where is the problem? He (Chikwanda) has also been writing to the media, isn’t it? And calling for an IMF programme, right? Yet he was the one who contributed to the debt mounting we are facing. So if others contribute along the same line, is it a bad thing? We are just contributing as citizens who are concerned about what has happened,” Dr Fundanga said. “Everybody is talking the same language; when it comes from different mouths, it becomes offensive. This is a Zambian problem! Solutions are found through different contributions. If you think in the same way, there will be no progress in society. There might be other people who think borrowing is the right thing, that is their view.”
He said borrowing must be done in moderation.
“There are some of us who think things must be done in moderation, that is our view. We have experience and we know how this country went through a debt problem and when we resolved it, we also know the benefits. It will be irresponsible of us not to voice out right now. I have always been voicing out, even when I was a permanent secretary, [I used to voice out] very openly when I felt that something was not done properly. It is our duty as citizens to point out when things are not going on well so that they can be corrected, so that they can be of benefit to our citizens. When we keep quiet, then we are selfish. I am not a selfish person, neither are my colleagues. We are looking out for our country to prosper. Zambia has a lot of opportunities to prosper but we mess them up ourselves,” Dr Fundanga said.
He assured Dr Nga’ndu that they were trying to make his job easier.
“And in any case, he indicated when you talked to him yesterday (Monday) the need for the IMF [support], we are just supporting him; we are not opposing him. What is wrong with those supporting him voicing out in his support? But I don’t know why when the same language is said by different people, it should make a difference,” Dr Fundanga said. “If anything, he should be happy that other senior citizens are coming out in his support of his position, he needs IMF for sure. We are just trying to voice out collectively so that when he starts discussing with his colleagues, wherever they are, he knows that he has support amongst his colleagues. We all want a solution for this country and in our letter, we were very neutral, we didn’t even mention names…”
He said fighting each other about which is the right decision could lead the country into a worse off position.
“All we are saying as citizens is that if we can’t find a solution now, then this country is going to turn into a worse situation, a situation which can be retrieved if we make the right decisions…Let us rescue ourselves before it is too late. Personally, I can assure the minister that we’re just trying to make his work easier by showing that those who had worked in his space are with him when he says ‘we must go to the IMF’. What is offensive about that? We just want to find workable solutions because these other solutions are rhetorical,” Dr Fundanga said.
He also said the Central Bank should not be blamed for the depreciation of the Kwacha.
“All these issues of the kwacha getting weak, you don’t [put] blame on the Central Bank, it has to pay the bills, if you didn’t put much pressure on the Central Bank, the kwacha would have been much stronger today. But when you are borrowing, it looks like the money is there to be spent; you are forgetting that one day, you have pay it. And when you have to pay it, there will be others in the future generations who will suffer to pay it, which is exactly what is happening now. We have to pay and the consequences are clear. When those Eurobonds mature, that is when you even feel it, more than what you are feeling now when you are just paying interests for those Eurobonds. These are genuine concerns,” said Dr Fundanga.