The International Monetary Fund has described as outrageous allegations that President Edgar Lungu bribed IMF’s Mission Team Leader to Zambia Tsidi Tsikata as a way of improving Zambia’s chances of getting an IMF bailout.
And the IMF has clarified that Zambia’s external debt stands at $7.2 billion and not U.S. $17.2 billion.
Mr Tsikata was in the country recently as part of the Fund’s negotiations with the Zambian government for a bail out believed to be in the region of US$1.3 billion.
The Executive Board of the IMF is this August expected to make a decision on whether Zambia will get the bail out which is seen by many as a financial life line for the cash strapped PF government.
An IMF bailout facility will also be viewed as an endorsement of President Lungu’s administration by the international community.
Some online media outlets have reported that President Lungu has given Mr Tsikana an undisclosed amount of money as a bribe to get his to ensure that he makes a strong recommendation to the Board that Zambia gets the IMF deal.
But IMF Communications Director Gerry Rice told a press briefing in Washington on Thursday that such allegations are outrageous and rubbish.
“There’s one other thing I want to say on Zambia, and it’s not a question. But I’ve seen some news reports over the last 24 hours that have an outrageous allegation relating to a bribe being taken by an IMF staff member. It’s an outrageous allegation, as I say. It’s utterly false. It’s rubbish, actually,” Mr Rice said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rice has clarified that Zambia’s external debt stands at $7.2 billion and not U.S. $17.2 billion.
He said the U.S. $17.2 billion was a shocking statistics.
“There’s one question on Zambia, where it’s reported that Finance Minister Felix Mutati disclosed the shocking statistics in Parliament on Wednesday when he said Zambia’s external debt alone is U.S. $17.2 billion.”
“What’s the IMF comment on the debt reports and prospects, and steps for the program? I would just — number one, on Zambia, I’d like to clarify that number because it’s not correct.
Mr Rice said, “I think, the actual statement delivered by the minister in terms of the external debt stock at the end of May 20, 2017 is $7.2 billion, not $17.2. That’s an important clarification.”
He added, “We did issue a press release recently on Zambia, so I won’t get into the whole description of prospects and so on, but what I would just say is that implementation of the remaining actions in the next few weeks will enable us to present the authority’s request for an Extended Credit Facility arrangement to the Board, and we expect that to be in August of this year.”