PRESIDENTIAL Affairs Minister Freedom Sikazwe says the Patriotic Front government was forced to borrow excessively because it inherited a bad economy from the MMD in terms of infrastructure.
“It is true, some people are crying that we have overborrowed, do you know the reason? It was the pressure that we had as the government to try and change things. We inherited a very bad economy in terms of infrastructure. If we were to maintain the same status quo of having the fears of borrowing, today, this country would have been a mess. But it takes a parent to make a decision. That’s why people go and borrow, because you know, you have to sustain your family,” says Honourable Sikazwe.
Mr Freedom Sikazwe is free to enjoy his freedom of speech, but being a person who holds a senior government position at State House, he has no right to disseminate lies. What Mr Sikazwe is saying are lies and he knows it. To say that the PF inherited a bad economy is far from the truth. The Patriotic Front inherited a country that was as good as debt free. Yes, we had debt, but there was no debt distress in sight. The country had no worries about Eurobonds and hidden Chinese loans. The economy was ticking, and we are not speaking from without.
According to the IMF records, when PF got into power in 2011, public and publicly guaranteed external debt stood at only US$1.9 billion. Before PF formed government, the kwacha was trading at K5 to a dollar, inflation was in single digit and all the economic indicators were positive. The economy was growing at an estimated 4 to 5 per cent.
In 2011, Copper prices went through the roof, but instead of ramping up production, we saw, for the first time in history, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) overtaking Zambia to become Africa’s leading copper producer in 2013. What followed is a change of mining tax policies every year, leading to job losses and the shutting down of critical mining firms.
The Zambian economy was doing well before PF came on the scene and the economic indicators at that time can disagree with what the State House minister is saying. That is why when the PF issued the first Eurobond, it was oversubscribed. All we have to do to prove this is to look at Zambia’s rating in terms of economic outlook by Moody’s and other agencies at that time. When PF was taking over power, Zambia had five loans with a combined value of US$0.5 billion in 2011 and this increased sharply to 30 loans totaling US$3.4 billion by 2016. This is according to the IMF records.
Those are the facts that are staring Honourable Sikazwe in his face as he speaks about this issue. You cannot manufacture data. You can lie all you want, but lies can never become facts. This attempt by the PF government to rewrite history must never be tolerated. Mr Sikazwe and his employer at State House must be ashamed that they have now resorted to lies.
And in any case, it must be made very clear that the problem is not that the PF borrowed money, but the purpose for borrowing was wrong. What we have here is that the PF borrowed extensively and mismanaged the borrowed money. Most of the money they got from private lenders ended up in private pockets here in Zambia, it was squandered through corruptly awarded contracts. Because of that corruption, the government produced sub-standard infrastructure that ended up being washed away by rains.
PF borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp the railway sector. Let’s turn our eyes towards Zambia Railways today and see what those millions have done at the parastatal. Nothing! In fact, we heard in Parliament that in the case of Zambia Railways, they didn’t even have a plan for the Eurobond money beforehand. They started to think about what to do with it after it was credited into the account, and evidently, the money went to waste. That would have been a major boost to the transport sector. All we can see are expensive, high powered 4 x 4 motor vehicles bought for all directors.
So we don’t understand what Honourable Sikazwe is talking about when he says PF inherited a very bad economy. And we must state categorically that there cannot be anything honourable about a lying man, except we have to call him as such only as a matter of house style. PF ministers must stop preaching lies to our people.