ECONOMIC Front leader Wynter Kabimba says the $564 million concessional financing that the World Bank has committed to Zambia is still a debt, arguing that everything the UPND has said so far is turning out to be a lie.

But former Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande has welcomed the financing, suggesting that the money should be injected into more productive sectors.

Government recently said the World Bank had committed a total of $564 million concessional financing to Zambia, part of which will come now and the rest on condition that the country gets the IMF programme.

In an interview, Monday, Kabimba wondered why the UPND government was contracting debt, something they preached against while in opposition.

“Let us begin with what UPND said when they were in opposition. Their position was that they condemned the contracting of the debt by the then administration. They said that [the] PF administration was consigning the generations of this country to debt, which in their view was not only wrong, but it was also immoral. They went further and said that under the UPND, they will not contract any debt. It is, therefore, surprising to hear the honourable Minister of Finance now turning around and cosmetically referring to the debt they have contracted with the World Bank. A debt is a debt, whether given to Zambia on a concessionary interest rate,” he said.

“The only way the Minister of Finance can convince the Zambians that indeed they are not contracting any debt is for them to tell us that all the money that will be given to this administration is in form of grants. Grants do not attract any form of interest. So it takes us back to the culture of lies which has become very endemic with the UPND administration. It leaves every citizen with a great deal of doubt as to when the UPND administration will ever tell this country the truth about anything. Because so far everything they have said is turning out to be a lie. Everything they have said is turning out to be a contradiction of their original position.”

But Magande welcomed the concessional financing, suggesting that the money should be injected into more productive sectors.

“Concessional borrowing in particular from the World Bank and the IMF, it’s on very very soft conditions. That is why we rarely call them loans. We call them facilities because they have such low cost to the borrower. For example, the IMF and the World Bank, I think they give a grace period of 10 years and the repayment of 40 years. So if we have 10 years of using this money and we put it in productive sectors, it means after 10 years we should be able to pay back. Because the World Bank and IMF are very big financial institutions, once they lend to us or give us that concessional loan, then other people also get attracted to also lend because then they know that we might have the capacity or that perhaps [we] will create the capacity to pay them,” he said.

“So, then you can also go and borrow from other multilateral institutions. So this is what the government has been saying that we have to make sure that our relationship with the IMF and the World Bank is on good standing, then the other people will be attracted to come and help us.”

Magande urged the UPND administration to ensure prudent utilisation of funds, saying it was his hope that they would perform better than the PF.

“But of course, I just hope that very soon the government will unveil whatever development plan they have so that ordinary citizens can follow that we borrowed this money in 2022 now it is 2026, and we had said we will use the money in this fashion and so on. I think we expect the UPND [to] do better than PF. PF borrowed, I remember the first borrowing was 750 million and then they said ‘we are sending this money to Zambia railways’ and they kept on saying what it is [that] was supposed to be done at Zambia railways. Is it renovating the workshop? Up to now, we don’t know,” said Magande.

“I think we have lessons that we have learnt from PF mismanagement of the economy. And really, I expect UPND to have complete plans that the citizens, those who are basically looking to this new change as the new dawn that they can follow to say ‘this money has gone in this direction, this has gone in this direction’.”