THE German government has released a rapid response package worth K370 million to help Zambia in the fight against COVID-19 and to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the country’s most vulnerable people.

But the German government has demanded accountability on Covid donations, further urging Zambian authorities to actively address the “debt crisis” and to speed up negotiations with the IMF.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dr Bwalya N’gandu has used the occasion of accepting the donation to reiterate his guidance that ministries, provinces and agencies should ensure budget allocations, and donated resources are used only for activities related to duly approved programmes.

In a statement, Monday, German Ambassador to Zambia Achim Burkart explained that the rapid response package that had been given to Zambia focused on expansion of social protection measures, supporting Zambia’s health system, ensuring that people had access to essential water and sanitation services critical for good hygiene and pandemic control, among others.

“The global crisis requires global cooperation. That is why the German government is committed to support the Zambian people to control the outbreak of the pandemic and to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the crisis. I have been impressed by the Zambian response and I thank the amazing health workers, the heroes of our time, which provide front-line care with highest personal commitment. As part of Team Europe’s efforts, Germany is today announcing a rapid response package with a total volume of 18.5 million euros or K370 million for Zambia,” Ambassador Burkart announced in his statement.

“Through this support and further planned support, Germany is committed to help Zambia control the outbreak and to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, especially on most vulnerable people focusing on four areas: expanding social protection measures through cash transfers for the most vulnerable; support Zambia’s health system in combating the pandemic through procurement of health supplies, such as protective equipment, essential medicines, testing and lab capacity; ensure people have continued access to essential water and sanitation services critical for good hygiene and pandemic control; supporting our current partners in stepping up prevention measures and behaviour change campaigns as well as in crisis management, particularly at the local level and in our partner institutions.”

Ambassador Burkart disclosed that this support was given in response to a request by Zambia’s Finance Minister to scale-up development cooperation in health and other sectors.

“The contribution will support GRZ in the implementation of the Zambian Contingency Plan and will be implemented through German Development Cooperation organizations, GIZ and KfW, in partnership with the UNICEF. The planned support follows on a request by the Minister of Finance to the German Embassy to scale-up development cooperation in health and other sectors. As part of this commitment, Germany stands ready to support social protection for the most vulnerable, especially in urban areas. A strong signal that the Government of the Republic of Zambia prioritizes social protection of the most vulnerable in their own spending will be important factor in the decision-making.”

But Ambassador Burkart urged the Zambian government to observe strict accountability standards in the response and step up anti-corruption measures for the fight against COVID-19 to be effective.

“For Zambia’s fight with COVID-19, including the German contribution to be most effective, we urge the Government of Zambia to: re-prioritize government expenditures to safeguard the needs of the poor and vulnerable parts of the population; uphold human rights and highest accountability standards in the response and step up anti-corruption measures; actively address the debt crisis to prevent the breakdown of public finances through speeding up reforms and negotiations with the IMF; take the necessary steps to make best use of existing and potential new multilateral support as well as the G-20 debt suspension initiative,” stated Ambassador Burkart.

Responding to the aid, Dr Ng’andu expressed profound gratitude for the support.

“Dr Ng’andu agrees with the view of the German Foreign Minister HEIKO MASS that the logic of the Covid-19 pandemic entailes that Governments around the world, Zambia included, either prevail over the virus or not at all. He has also taken note of the glowing tribute by German Ambassador Achim Burkart to Zambian health workers for providing front-line care with the highest personal commitment. Dr Ng’andu takes this opportunity to reiterate the guidance earlier given to ministries, provinces and agencies to ensure that budget allocated, and donated resources, are used only for activities related to duly approved programmes. This is in line with measures instituted by the Treasury to ascertain that, on a frequent basis, consolidated resource usage reports are received from ministries, provinces and agencies for verification and accountability,” read the statement issued by ministry spokesman Chileshe Kandeta.

“Dr Ng’andu has reaffirmed that Zambia will continue to engage development partners, including the IMF, to exchange information on policy options that are being pursued by Zambia in dealing with fiscal challenges, public debt, and other macro-economic governance issues – key to the country’s economic stabilisation and recovery, post Covid-19.
The Minister has emphasised that the Government will continue its engagements with the IMF through various platforms such as the rapid credit response facility discussions and other initiatives related to developing a common purpose programme of ensuring that the economy returns to high growth and the debt to sustainable levels.”

The ministry said government was now in the process of hiring a debt management consultant to help reshape the country’s financial position.

“As part of action taken towards the debt sustainability goal, Zambia is in the process of assessing the proposals received following our recently issued tender request for financial advisory services on asset and liability management of the country’s debt portfolio. The call for tenders has since closed and the process of shortlisting and finally selecting a financial advisor will soon be completed,” read the statement.

“Some days ago, we announced K2.7 billion donor support committed by the United Kingdom, United States of America, African Development Bank, and World Bank, for fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and other associated programmes. The support from Germany brings the total support committed by development partners in the last one month to K3.07 billion.”