By Sunday Chanda
We find it extremely worrying that the Secretary General of what is supposed to be the Country’s main Opposition Party, United Party for National Development (UPND) Mr Stephen Katuka could comfortably, with intent to mislead and misinform, trade such ignorance in the public space.
Every objective observer and Zambian citizen, including any serious Opposition Party will attest to the fact that since the UNIP Government of the 1960-70s, no subsequent Government has developed as much road infrastructure, bridges, invested in alternative power generation investments, and massive infrastructure development in health, education and communications sector – as the PF Government has managed to achieve, in only 8 years (2011–2019)!
During the official opening of the National Assembly on 13th September, 2019, His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu said:
“We have procured debt for development… We can see it in the road infrastructure, bridges, alternative power generation investments, including but not limited to massive infrastructure development in the health, education and communications sector. This we all can see and attest to.”_
Mr. Katuka and UPND may wish to know that Zambia exists and operates not as an island within the global economy. This means that Zambia’s economic performance cannot escape the effects emanating from global economic currents. We invite the UPND to give Zambians what they consider to be implications for an economy such as ours in light of the current adverse global economic currents, according to the IMF, include the USA-Sino Trade War, U.S Auto Tariffs and No-Deal Brexit. Is Mr. Katuka even aware that this has led the IMF and World Bank to cut global economic growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020, with countries such as the USA *seeing a significant economic slowdown in 2020 to only 1.9%.?*
While it’s understandable that UPND is still in denial of Climate Change, they would be wise to know that another adverse global current relates to adverse climatic conditions and weather patterns, which in the case of Zambia, have combined to negatively impact the agriculture, energy and other sectors, and consequently the whole economy.
Does Mr Katuka know about the various economic interventions that the Government has instituted since July 2018, anchored on the Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) and Medium Term Debt Strategy (MTDS) as follows:
i. Postponement of the contraction of all pipeline external debt until the high risk of debt distress is brought to a moderate level.
ii. Cancellation some of the contracted loans that have not disbursed, in order to reduce the debt service burden.
iii. Undertaking an asset liability exercise on selected loans to extend the maturity profile and attain lower interest costs.
iv. Cease issuance of guarantees to commercially viable projects.
v. Cessation of the issuance of Letters of Credit and Sovereign Guarantees to institutions that are technically insolvent until their balance sheet challenges are resolved. (Source: Ministry of Finance, Zambia).
Mr. Katuka may wish to know that through the above and other measures, the PF Government continues to constrain the primary balance while attracting concessional financing for the Budget to mitigate the adverse implications of high debt service in the medium term, by; curtailing the accumulation of debt and reorganizing the current debt portfolio in order to minimize costs and mitigate the risks associated with it.
As a responsible Government, the PF did not start implementing these measures in 2019, but has been implementing these economic interventions in line with its 2017-2019 Medium Term Debt Strategy (MTDS) which outlines PF Government’s plan over the medium term with regards to fiscal and debt management. In addition to this, control of the fiscal deficit is a high priority for the PF Government. For example, in 2018, without measures being undertaken, the deficit would have been higher at over 9% of GDP. Over the Medium Term, the current Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) currently under preparation has taken into account the measures and adjustments particularly on the pipeline debt. (Source: Ministry of Finance).
These and other measures by the PF Government have mitigated the adverse effects of the subdued global economy and the resultant lower capital inflows to Zambia.
Mr. Katuka is not even aware that the PF Government has been implementing various measures aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability; fiscal restraint to achieve low levels of primary balance deficit through the current Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), to mention only two.
We wish to draw Mr. Katuka’s attention to President Lungu’s promise to the nation on 13th September 2019 when he said:
“In view of the current economic situation, the Government needs to work more prudently and to do so, the focus should be on ‘managing for results, by doing more with less.’ This is the new mantra that my Government is working with at all levels.”
Maybe to help Mr. Katuka, we shall borrow one of Mr Chishimba Kambwili’s mantras in responding as follows:
- He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool; shun him.
- He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a student; Teach him.
- He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; Wake him.
- He who knows, and knows that he knows, is Wise; Follow him.”
For now, we ask can only ask Zambians to forgive Mr. Katuka, for he knows not what he is talking about and we do not blame him.