ANY fool can spend, but not everyone can make money. Zambia has many problems, but the biggest issue we have on our hands is debt. That’s the most serious issue. We are concerned that all these political parties that are expressing interest to lead this country are running away from this issue in their debates and manifestos. First of all, we can eliminate PF because they caused the problem. So, they can’t be the solution. But when we look at what the opposition is offering, we are hearing a lot of silence on the issue, why?

People are just saying ‘we will fix it’, but how? When we ask these questions, our critics say we are decampaigning the opposition. No we’re not. But if asking such questions amounts to decampaigning the opposition, then let it be. You see, we never interrogated Michael Sata to say ‘bwana, you are promising more money in our pockets, how are you going to achieve that?’ We never questioned how he would lower taxes and create millions of jobs. We have learnt a lesson now and we must never fall for the same rhetoric again.

Our politicians have all these popular ideas but at the end of the day, we have ended up with a debt mountain of almost US$15 billion, and people still have no money in their pockets. The only money that is available is in the pockets of those who control national resources and award government tenders, the President, his ministers and a few MPs. So we need to ask these questions to make our politicians understand that this time, we are serious about credible leadership.

Our current debt is approaching US$15 billion. The question is, how are you going to liquidate this debt and still be able to develop the country? We have a big problem here that we must not downplay. A good portion of this debt we are talking about is commercial. Those Eurobonds and other commercial loans they were contracting need to be repaid. So what’s your repayment plan as a government in waiting. We are happy that you will fix it, but what’s your fixing formula?

Our people should be in position to vote for a candidate that has a viable plan on how to address this debt problem. This is what the citizens of this country, including the technocrats at the Central Bank, want to hear. They have sung relentlessly about prudent use of resources, practical implementation of austerity measures, cutting down on borrowing, but this message has been falling on deaf ears. We need leaders who can provide a realistic and honest turnaround plan.

We have scanned through the manifestos and ten-point plans of those who are seeking votes from Zambians, but we cannot see anyone who is addressing this debt issue. Zambians need to evaluate the manifestos and ten-point plans. Are they viable? We have intelligent people in this country who can analyse. We have economists who can know whether you are talking nonsense or not. Show us your plan.

Donor dependency is not a reliable debt dismantling plan. Look at what has happened during this Covid-19 pandemic! Most of these Western governments are fast losing interest in helping Zambia. Not long ago, they gave relief aid to our neighbours, but they refused to consider Zambia. It’s easy to understand them because our leaders have demonstrated a high level of recklessness and are unteachable. So, who is going to give money to such a stubborn government? Like any other investment, the rules of donor aid are simple: if you are irresponsible, there is nothing for you! No one is willing to fund your stupidity?

How can a poor country like Zambia have leaders swimming in so much riches? And when a global summit comes up, they go with begging bowls seeking funding for more projects so that they can enrich themselves further through corruption. When the donors give you money to help your poorest and vulnerable, you divert that money and buy luxury cars and boats for your friends and families? Is that not stupidity? None of these leaders have had such conspicuous wealth. Most of them were poor. Where has all this money come from? You cannot swim in riches in the midst of poverty, it simply doesn’t add up. The end result is debt and more debt. So we need people who have a plan, and this plan should include an overhaul of the procurement system which is riddled with endless flaws.

Recently, we heard the Chinese Ambassador saying “as one way of helping Zambia, China has decided to cancel interests on all loans that are due at the end of 2020”. Now, if you are saying that you are canceling interest on all Chinese loans that are falling due in 2020, that’s a very small proportion of what you need to pay back to China. So, they are sweet-talking you and you are very happy and excited that you even want to borrow more. That’s how reckless our leaders are.

Any fool can spend, but not everyone can make money. Any party that will win the next elections will first look at the budget. And that is when reality will dawn. There will be no money left to run the economy. How will you run the government? These are the questions that all the 2021 contenders must answer. Yes, the PF has failed to find the solution, but what’s your plan as the government in waiting? We are challenging presidential aspirants to a debate on this issue. Tell us!