LEADER of the Opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says his party wholeheartedly welcomes government’s intentions to set up a commission of inquiry into privatisation.
And Mwiimbu says the Ministry of Finance will have challenges financing the 2021 budget due to high indebtedness.
Debating on the Motion of Supply on the estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year 2021 (national budget) in parliament, Friday, Mwiimbu said his party welcomed the privatisation inquiry, but warned that such a process would undermine the credibility of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“Mr Speaker as I debate this Motion, I would like to take cognizance of what happened yesterday (Thursday) where PF members petitioned the President to constitute a commission of inquiry pertaining to the privatisation that took place in this country from the 1990s. Mr Speaker, this particular happening of yesterday is very critical to the fulfillment of the budget aspirations of the Minister of Finance. And I will be able to demonstrate why what happened yesterday is so important. Mr Speaker, on behalf of the UPND and our president Mr Hakainde Hichilema, we would like to welcome wholeheartedly this particular privatization inquiry. It will lead to rest a number of issues that have been raised,” Mwiimbu said.
But Mwiimbu warned that the inquiry had potential to undermine the credibility of the International Monitory Fund and the World Bank which were also part of the process and whom Zambia was currently begging for debt assistance from.
“Mr Speaker, it is important to note that that particular exercise of privatisation was made by the Government of the Republic of Zambia under the Blessings of the International Monitory Fund and the World Bank, institutions which we are now craving that they assist us to resuscitate the economy of the Republic of Zambia. We must take note that the petitioners have been questioning the credibility of that particular exercise, questioning the credibility of the institutions that advised government to privatise. And we also have to take note that whereas we are questioning the credibility of these two important institutions, we are before them kneeling for assistance over this matter to help us resuscitate the economy and help us to finance the budget,” Mwiimbu warned.
He appealed for transparency in the inquiry process.
“I did indicate that we welcome this investigation, Mr Speaker. We want this particular inquiry to be transparent. And also, we want this particular privatization inquiry to take into account that there are more than 240 companies that were privatised by the Government of the Republic of Zambia during that period. And a number of these companies Mr Speaker that are successful now are owned by foreign entities. And as a result of the intended inquiry, you are sending getters to those who purchased these companies in this country. And that is the point that I am making Mr Speaker that as we discuss these issues, they have a bearing on the economy of this country and the donor confidence of this country. And that is the reason why even bars that were operating in Chilenje are collapsing because of lack of confidence in people who patronize them,” Mwiimbu said.
“Mr Speaker, as we debate this particular issue, we would like to ensure that the government does not erode the confidence of investors in this country. As we are going to open a commission of inquiry, Mr Speaker, we should extend this inquiry to the privatizations that happened after 2001, we had Zanaco, we had LapGreenN and now we have ZAFFICO where you are selling the shares. And also Mr Speaker, we should also extend the inquiry to extend to the misleading advice that is being given by the Minister of Justice on any action that is taken by government comes from the Ministry of Justice’s office.”
And Mwiimbu feared that the Ministry of Finance might have a problem financing the 2021 national budget due to huge indebtedness.
“Honorable [Bwalya] Ng’andu has a problem in managing the budget of the Republic of Zambia because of what the PF have been doing in this country. We advised Honourable Ng’andu that don’t borrow recklessly but Honourable Ng’andu did not listen to the advice we gave him. Mr Speaker, we would like Honourable Ng’andu to be listening to our advice. As you are aware, as we are debating today, Lap Green is calling on its debt, they are going to seize the assets of the Republic of Zambia, the bondholders have not agreed to the proposals by Honourable Ng’andu on the issues of the bond. It therefore follows that Honourable Ng’andu will have problems to finance the budget. We call up Honourable Ng’andu to listen to advice that we give him,” said Mwiimbu.