FORMER commerce minister Bob Sichinga says the government should consider meeting lenders individually and determining their “red lines” as it implements the debt restructuring programme.

And Sichinga has bemoaned the delay in appointing ambassadors to some countries, saying it is disadvantageous for Zambia.

In an interview, Sichinga said government needed to understand each lender individually, before arriving at any decision and making general statements.

“It is very important that before you do rescheduling, you meet the lenders individually first. When I talk about lack of a plan, it’s because you haven’t sat down to say ‘this is our schedule of things, if we do this it has these implications’. Now the debt rescheduling is one major assignment at the moment before us in terms of the UPND government. It is a very key issue because it opens up the other opportunities because you haven’t got sufficient cash as we stand at the moment to deal with challenges that are before you. So you need an agreement with the creditors. The question is how you approach it. The way you do [this] is to go to individual lenders to determine what their red lines are. What it is that they can do and what is that they cannot do. You understand each one of them and you ask them why they are taking that particular position,” Sichinga said.

“You also gather intelligence not only on the lenders, not only on people that have put maybe the investment, but you want to have an understanding of people like the credit rating companies. What is your reading of these companies, what is your understanding of these companies, stock exchange people, stock brokers you go to them and say what is your understanding of your company? You must understand each organisation that has lent to you individually before you arrive at the decision to say I am going to do this and make it a general statement. Lenders don’t like general statements. They want something that is exclusive to them, they want to feel that you treat them exclusively and importantly.”

He insisted that government must send special envoys to countries that it owes.

“So you have to send a special mission to discuss with them what their position is, to have an understanding because all these that have lent to you have a particular investment made. What do you regard as something that is a red line for you as a country? So you prioritise all these programmes and the lenders and say ‘if we do this one, this one has the following implication’. Can we bare that so that when you go to negotiate with for example the IMF who you want to support you, you already have a position yourself. You are not depending on them; you are not depending on the fact that it’s them who must advise you,” Sichinga said.

“You must have a position yourself which is your negotiating position. If you have not done that homework you will not be able to succeed because each one of them (lenders) will always come back to say ‘no we want to be treated like this’. So you have to have intelligence on each one of them, what it is that they will accept and what it is that they will not accept.”

And Sichinga bemoaned government’s delay in appointing ambassadors to some countries.

“The government should have selected countries that are very sensitive, on which they rely on. In other ways countries which are more important than the others. Those should have been dealt with, in other ways we must classify our embassies. Not all embassies are the same. For example our embassy to an African country, and I am not going to mention any, may not be at the same level as an ambassador to China, United States, to a Scandinavian country. You pick them up on the basis of their special interest in your country may be to Britain being your former colonial power, you always have to consider those,” said Sichinga.

“So the delay in sending an ambassador to a particular location or destination can be disadvantageous because you do not have a voice on the other side to pick information for you.”