Last week, during the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) press briefing to announce the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), we asked Governor Dr Denny Kalyalya to explain how well he thought government’s austerity measures were positively impacting the country’s economic growth. Without beating about the bush, he said the economy was deteriorating because there was no effective implementation of the announced austerity measures.

Dr Denny KALYALYA: “I think the verdict is still out there, isn’t it? If they were working well, we wouldn’t have the kind of challenges we are having. So, there is an issue of effective implementation, which has to be done. That’s why we keep coming back to this. So, effective implementation still remains an issue. There may be hardships, but it will shorten the deterioration of that (economy) if we did that because it’s like, if you are sick, and they give you an injection, you dread it! But soon, the pain from the injection will disappear and you will get well so that’s what we need to take; that bitter medicine so that we can get well. So, the short answer to your question is that they haven’t, that’s why we want them (austerity measures) to be fully implemented.”

This man stands out as one of the bravest Central Bank governors that Zambia has ever had. We remember that from the time he was appointed to that position, he has never shied away from advising government leaders, especially politicians, to avoid making careless public statements. True to his consistency, to this very day, he has not relented on guiding government to ensure prudent use of public resources.

Dr Kalyalya’s remarks last week were on point and timely. His observation came at a time President Edgar Lungu was just returning from India to change some clothes before flying out to Japan with a huge State-sponsored delegation on both trips. When people complained about these successive international trips in the face of austerity measures, the self-proclaimed Chemical Alis of the Patriotic Front government swung into action justifying the huge expenditure.

“The reason why the President went with that delegation is because government needed to be represented by technocrats from various sectors who can convince investors to bring their money to Zambia,” said one Permanent Secretary. Surely, why do we have the Zambia Development Agency? Is it not their role to lure investors into the country?

Let’s be serious as a country! The notion that only when the President travels, and with a huge delegation, is when investors make commitments cannot be correct. President Lungu has made close to 80 international trips since he became Head of State. What’s the ratio of those trips with the investment attracted so far? Surely, there is no doubt that we have spent more money as a country on presidential trips than we have gained from his solicited investments.

Genuine investors can’t wait for the President to come for them to identify investment opportunities. We don’t think Xi Jinping has travelled to all the countries in Africa where his Chinese investors are operating. Yes, a President can travel, there is nothing wrong, but there must be a reasonable cause, especially when you are trying to be prudent with your meager resources.

Unless the Presidency is trying to communicate a message that the Zambia Development Agency is not doing its job, we don’t see how these international presidential trips can be justified under such economic conditions. A president’s trip is very expensive and we need to be very cautious that during austerity measures, a Head of State must refrain from undertaking unnecessary trips. In our case, we have actually missed President Lungu and we wonder when he will be visiting Zambia next.

Most importantly, if the trip is so important that a president can’t miss, let him go with a lean delegation that communicates the economic status of a country. The on-going wastage of resources, especially by State House, needs to be checked. Cabinet office needs to speak less and act more on austerity measures.

In our view, this is the message that Dr Kalyalya was delivering. This is what he meant when he said we continue to have economic problems because austerity measures are not working. Please, Dr President, listen to Dr Kalyalya because he is not a politician and has nothing to gain from a failed government. He means well.

We insist that the PF government must listen to Dr Kalyalya because he is a professional who means well. In fact, it’s you, the PF people, who have taught him bad manners. That’s why he went to spend K370,000 on revamping a tree in Kabwe because he was trying to emulate the big spenders in government. LOL.