FORMER Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu has described sentiments by the UPND government that there is hidden debt as nonsense and meaningless.

And Dr Ng’andu says claims that the Treasury is empty also don’t make sense.

Meanwhile, PF vice-president Given Lubinda says President Hakainde Hichilema should recover from his 15 years in opposition and act like a Republican President.

Addressing journalists at the party secretariat in Lusaka, Friday, Dr Bwalya, who is also PF Member of Central Committee, said at no point did his Ministry falsify debt figures as that was not in the interest of the country.

“I will be very interested to see, what numbers will the new government take to the table as they start the discussions with the creditors because if numbers were cooked up, they will be able to generate new numbers which they will consider to be the truth. The debt numbers have been subjected to scrutiny at various times and by different reputable organisations without any charge by myself as Minister of Finance at the time. I did not mislead them by giving them false
information. That I mislead them by giving them numbers which were different from actual numbers regarding our debt. Hiding the true extent of your debt when you are seeking to restructure makes no sense. The whole purpose of engaging creditors on the restructuring of your debt is to try to get them to commit them on a point that will help reduce the interest rate on your debt,” Dr Bwalya said.

“The declaration of the debt figure that is lower than the actual debt in this situation is meaningless and act of deception because remedy will not be adequate to deal with the problem that you have at hand. You can’t lie about the number. The statement that there is a hidden
debt somewhere suggest that somebody has found what was hidden because it was. I am sure that they have some hidden debt somewhere and we will all be waiting to see who is behind this and the amount which was contracted. But I can assure you that the time I was at the Ministry, we never worked on the falsifying the debt numbers because it was not in the interest of the country.”

Dr Ng’andu said the IMF would have questioned the debt figures if they were not the correct ones because they are intrusive.

“The IMF is very intrusive and they do question your numbers and if there is some discrepancy in the numbers, they would have questioned. And I need to say to you that they are not a bunch of dull people. They are very competent people and so in all our engagements, the IMF never accused us of cooking numbers or seeking to mislead them. I know there was some times we had difficulties in what numbers should be considered as part of public debt whether in fact, the debt that is incurred by parastatals. The contentious issue between our team and IMF touched mostly on the farmer input support programme, price of petroleum products and cost of electricity. Those were the issues and not the issues of cooking numbers or lying to IMF over debt,” he said.

He said under declaring debt wouldn’t have helped his administration.

“Debt sustainability will only be achieved if it is based on the actual quantum of the debt. If you declare a lower figure, and restructuring is based on that figure, you will not achieve your
objective of arriving at a new debt level that your economy will be able to make and so that was not what we were seeking for. We were seeking to have measures that would reinstall the debt sustainability but if you lie about actual number, you base your computations on a debt that is lower and this won’t help you,” Dr Ng’andu said.

And Dr Ng’andu suggested that Parliament should be involved in debt contraction in order to develop a transparent process.

“Going forward, we should develop a transparent debt contraction process which would include seeking consent of Parliament prior to contracting debt. We trust that our new government, and Minister of Finance will take this matter to Parliament,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lubinda advised Hichilema to recover from politicking.

“I want to advise President Bally to recover from the 15 years of politicking. I know it is very difficult having been in opposition and been politicking for 15 years, it takes some time come to accept the reality that you are no longer politicking but you are in the business of governance. The sooner he does this, the better for him and the better for Zambia. Secondly, the sooner President Bally divorces himself from fixing Zambia and casting Zambia in bad lights like he was doing when he was opposition leader, the better for himself and better for Zambia. He is no longer opposition president. You will not benefit anything from fixing Zambia. From putting Zambia in a fix. Now he is the chief executive of the country and the number one promoter of the interests of Zambians and everything that he says has a direct bearing on the affairs of Zambians. For him to go out there and make these statements is only putting himself in a fix. If he thinks he is fixing PF, he is not but he is fixing himself,” he said.

Lubinda said by the end of the year, President Hichilema should ensure that no child pays school fees.

“We want to ensure that as our MPs go to Parliament, they must assist President HH to ensure that by the end of this year, no child should pay school fees. This should happen and there is no reason for him to come and tell us that no ‘I inherited an empty Treasury when he made those promises, he did not make them conditional. I also would like to encourage FRA to stop buying maize from farmers until September because this government promised the Zambian people that
come first September, they will be paying farmers K200 per bag of maize. Framers stop selling maize to FRA until Bally fixes the price,” said Lubinda.