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Alba Iulia
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Zambia’s external debt increases to US$11.2 billion

Headlines Zambia's external debt increases to US$11.2 billion

Finance Minister Bwalya Ngandu has revealed that Zambia’s external debt stock now stands at US$11.2 billion.

This is an increase from the US$10.2 billion recorded as at end of July 2019.

Dr Ngandu was speaking in Lusaka Wednesday morning during a briefing on the performance of the economy.

“When I last updated the nation, in July 2019, the stock of external debt at end-June 2019 was US$10.23 billion. The stock has since increased to US$11.2 billion as at end December 2019. This was on account of new disbursements on existing loans mostly earmarked for infrastructure development,” Dr. Ngandu said.

The Finance Minister said the stock of Government securities at end-2019 was K80.2 billion from K60.3 billion at end-June 2019.

“The increase is explained by the issuance of Government securities to finance the budget deficit for 2019,” he said.

On domestic arrests, Mr Ngandu said the stock of domestic arrears, excluding VAT, amounted to K26.2 billion at end-September 2019 from K20.2 billion at end June 2019.

“In my address in July 2019, I indicated that the Ministry of Finance would engage different Government ministries in order to agree on projects to be slowed down, re-scoped, canceled or postponed. We proceeded to undertake this process. The outcome of these consultations was a Cabinet memorandum which Cabinet considered on 20th December, 2019.”

At its meeting, Cabinet directed that the following measures be undertaken:

a) A moratorium on contraction of external project loans;
b) Cancellation of selected external project loans;
c) Re-scoping of selected externally financed projects in order to reduce the project cost, and ultimately reduce the undisbursed loan balance.”

He said the moratorium on contraction of external project loans will apply mainly on non-concessional financing.

Dr Ngandu added that regarding the cancellation of selected external project loans, the external debt portfolio was extensively reviewed and relevant stakeholders engaged to identify and assess already contracted project loans.

He said these were then subjected to a defined criterion in order to determine their suitability for cancellation or re-scoping.

“The Government is currently reviewing the legal ramifications of undertaking the debt re-profiling exercise and will subsequently engage with lenders and contractors.”

The Finance Minister said the reduction in the undisbursed debt by cancellation and re-scoping of selected project loans, coupled with the moratorium on project loan contraction, will contain the rise in the debt stock and position the country on a sustainable path.

He said the measures are aimed at reducing the current undisbursed external debt of approximately US $7 billion by about US $5 billion.

“The re-scoping exercise in the road sector will reduce project costs from K10 billion to K1.4 billion.

“To unlock liquidity to the private sector, Government is working towards reducing the stock of arrears to domestic suppliers of goods and services. Between December 2019 and January 2020, the Ministry released a total of K590 million to the National Road Fund Agency and paid out K452 million representing 77 percent of the amount owed to local road contractors and consultants,” he said.

He said almost all the contractors undertaking routine maintenance works were paid in full.

“In order to avoid further accumulation of arrears, Government has, as part of its austerity measures, enhanced its commitment control systems.”

He added, “All erring controlling officers will be held to account in line with the Public Finance Management Act.”

Below is the Full Ministerial statement on the State of the Economy by Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu

1. Introductory Remarks

1.1 I wish to thank you for joining me and my team for this press briefing.

1.2 We last had this interaction in July 2019. At that time, I highlighted what my priorities would be with respect to economic management and
governance. I therefore, wish to provide an update to the nation on how we are faring with respect to the objectives that were set and
provide the economic prospects for our nation going forward.

1.3 The year 2020 is the beginning of a new decade and marks exactly ten years before 2030, by which time we aspire to be a prosperous middleincome country and to attain sustainable development goals. We have set a strong base, but we still have significant challenges to overcome. These challenges include low economic growth, high debt levels and income inequality. The Government’s policy framework largely meets
the challenges at hand. What we need is effective and sustained policy implementation.

1.4 As a nation, we have made progress in various areas. Our ambitious infrastructure development programme has improved the connectivity
of the country. This, however, does not come without cost. The elevated expenditure on infrastructure development has been financed through
borrowing and hence the prevailing high debt service payments and stock of debt. Although most of this investment may not result in
immediate returns for the country, we are certain that in due course the outcome shall be sustained long-term growth and improved welfare of
our people.

1.5 The policy thrust of Government now is to reduce the fiscal deficit,ensure debt sustainability and dismantle arrears. As we do this, we will
continue supporting social sector programmes.

2. Developments in the economy in 2019

Economic Growth

2.1 The year 2019 was challenging on the economic front. GDP growth was revised down to 2 percent, from an initial projection of 4 percent.

2.2 Following adverse weather conditions, agricultural output and electricity generation are projected to record negative growth. The contraction in the energy sector in turn led to a slowdown in most sectors of the economy including manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade.
Further, liquidity constraints associated with the higher debt service payments and the accumulation of domestic arrears, stifled private
sector economic activity.

Fiscal Developments

2.3 In 2019, preliminary estimates indicate that the fiscal deficit, on a cash basis, was 8.2 percent of GDP, against a budget target of 6.5 percent of GDP. This was largely due to higher external debt service payments on account of depreciation of the Kwacha and more than programed
spending on capital projects and the Farmer Input Support Programme.

2.4 Total Revenues and Grants collections amounted to K61.3 billion, which was 5.7 percent higher than the target of K58.0 billion. Domestic
Revenues amounted to K60.5 billion, and were above target by 7.9 percent. The increase in domestic revenues resulted from a rise in the
use of electronic payment platforms and other revenue collection enhancement measures by ZRA. Non-tax revenues at K12.1 billion were
above target by 28.7 percent, mostly due to dividend payments.

2.5 Preliminary indications are that Grants amounting to K838.5 million were received against a budget of K1.9 billion. This was due to nondisbursements by some cooperating partners.

2.6 Total Expenditures, including amortization, were above target by 8.7 percent at K94.3 billion against a target of K86.8 billion. The outturn was mostly due to interest payments which at K18 billion, were above target by 27.1 percent against a target of K14.2 billion, due mainly to the
depreciation of the Kwacha. Expenditure outlays on the Farmer Input Support Program and capital expenditure were also above target.
Personal Emoluments (PE’s) and Use of Goods and Services were below target.

Debt Developments

2.7 When I last updated the nation, in July 2019, the stock of external debt at end-June 2019 was US$10.23 billion. The stock has since increased to US$11.2 billion as at end December 2019. This was on account of new disbursements on existing loans mostly earmarked for infrastructure
development.

2.8 The stock of Government securities at end-2019 was K80.2 billion from K60.3 billion at end-June 2019. The increase is explained by the issuance of Government securities to finance the budget deficit for 2019.

2.9 The stock of domestic arrears, excluding VAT, amounted to K26.2 billion at end-September 2019 from K20.2 billion at end June 2019.

Monetary, Financial, and External Sector Developments

Inflation developments

2.10 The inflation rate at end-December 2019 was recorded at 11.7 percent from 7.9 percent in December 2018. The outturn was outside the target
band of 6-8 percent. The increase in inflation reflected a combination of an increase in prices for food items, upward adjustments in fuel prices
as well as the pass through from the depreciation of the Kwacha.

2.11 In response, the Bank of Zambia adjusted the monetary policy rate upwards to 11.5 percent in November 2019 from 10.25 percent and the
statutory reserve ratio to 9 percent from 5 percent in December 2019.

Commercial Bank Lending Rates and Financial Sector Conditions

2.12 Commercial banks average lending rates increased to 28.0 percent in December 2019 from 25.4 percent in June 2019. This reflected the rise in
the cost of funds and mirrored yield rates on Government securities.

2.13 Generally, the performance of the banking sector continued to be on aggregate, satisfactory. This was reflected in the sector remaining well
capitalized and the non-performing loans ratio being below the 10 percent prudential threshold at 9.8 percent in December 2019.

2.14 The overall financial performance and condition of the Non-Bank Financial Institutions sector was fair. Its asset quality was of concern on
account of a high level of non-performing loans, which as at 31st December 2019, represented 22.4 percent compared to the prudential limit of 10 percent.

Exchange Rate Developments

2.15 The exchange rate of the Kwacha against major currencies generally depreciated in the third and fourth quarters of 2019. The Kwacha
averaged K12.97 and K13.86 per US dollar in quarter three and four,respectively. This was at the back of heightened demand in the market
induced by petroleum, electricity and fertilizer imports, amidst reduced supply of foreign exchange.

2.16 Against the British Pound, Euro and South African Rand, the Kwacha depreciated by 7.9 percent, 6.1 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively,
between June and December 2019.

Gross International Reserves

2.17 As at end-December 2019, Gross International Reserves were US $1.45 billion, equivalent to 2.1 months of import cover. The reserves as at end June 2019 were US $1.41 billion, equivalent to 1.6 months of import cover. The increase in reserves is attributed to net purchases of foreign
exchange from the market by the Bank of Zambia, and continued payment of mineral royalties in US dollars.

3. Economic Outlook in 2020 and the Medium Term

3.1 Economic growth in 2020 and the medium term is expected to be above 3 percent. Risks to the medium-term growth projection relate to
climate change, particularly in the agricultural and energy sectors,ineffective implementation of fiscal consolidation measures and
uncertainty in the global economy.

3.2 The fiscal deficit is expected to be around the projected 5.5 percent of GDP. This will be on account of measures Government is undertaking to enhance revenue collection as well as to deal with the debt portfolio.The Ministry will also give special focus in 2020 to funding social sectors particularly pensions, social cash transfer and health and education sectors whose allocation in 2019 was not met. Further the Ministry will focus efforts at domestic arrears dismantling.

3.3 Inflation is expected to remain high in the 1st half of the year on account of the pass-through effect of the exchange rate depreciation and the increase in fuel and electricity prices. The rate is expected to start tapering down in the second half of the year due to a reduction in food prices as fresh produce begins coming onto the market.

3.4 Government will continue implementing measures aimed at stabilising and augmenting external reserves. The measures include reducing
outlays on debt service, Bank of Zambia purchases of foreign exchange from the market as well as purchases of gold as a reserve asset.

4. Structural and Legal Reforms

4.1 Government is aware of the various risks that must be mitigated to improve the economic situation in 2020. The constraints require that we
undertake reforms to enhance domestic resource mobilisation, improve the linkage between planning and budgeting, reform the Farmer Input
Support Program and implement energy sector reforms.

4.2 To enhance domestic resource mobilisation, Government will step up the modernization and automation of revenue collection processes and
provision of Government services through electronic platforms.

4.3 With regard to enhancing the credibility of the planning and budgeting processes, Government has presented the Planning and Budgeting Bill
to the National Assembly. Once enacted, the Act will provide for strengthened accountability, oversight and participation mechanisms in
the planning and budgeting processes.

4.4 To entrench the credibility of the budget and also avoid wasteful expenditure and over-pricing arising from the weaknesses in the current
law, Government is finalizing a new Public Procurement Bill which will be tabled before Parliament during this session of the National Assembly.

Debt Management

4.5 In my address in July 2019, I indicated that the Ministry of Finance would engage different Government ministries in order to agree on projects to be slowed down, re-scoped, canceled or postponed. We proceeded to undertake this process. The outcome of these consultations was a
Cabinet memorandum which Cabinet considered on 20th December,2019. At its meeting, Cabinet directed that the following measures be
undertaken:
a) A moratorium on contraction of external project loans;
b) Cancellation of selected external project loans; and
c) Re-scoping of selected externally financed projects in order to reduce the project cost, and ultimately reduce the undisbursed loan balance.

4.6 The moratorium on contraction of external project loans will apply mainly on non-concessional financing. Regarding cancellation of
selected external project loans, the external debt portfolio was extensively reviewed and relevant stakeholders engaged to identify and
assess already contracted project loans. These were then subjected to a defined criterion in order to determine their suitability for cancellation or re-scoping. The Government is currently reviewing the legal ramifications of undertaking the debt re-profiling exercise and will subsequently engage with lenders and contractors.

4.7 The reduction in the undisbursed debt by cancellation and re-scoping of selected project loans, coupled with the moratorium on project loan
contraction, will contain the rise in the debt stock and position the country on a sustainable path. These measures are aimed at reducing
the current undisbursed external debt of approximately US $7 billion by about US $5 billion.

4.8 The re-scoping exercise in the road sector will reduce project costs from K10 billion to K1.4 billion.

Arrears Clearance

4.9 To unlock liquidity to the private sector, Government is working towards reducing the stock of arrears to domestic suppliers of goods and
services. Between December 2019 and January 2020, the Ministry released a total of K590 million to the National Road Fund Agency and paid out K452 million representing 77 percent of the amount owed to local road contractors and consultants. Almost all the contractors undertaking routine maintenance works were paid in full.

4.10 In order to avoid further accumulation of arrears, Government has, as part of its austerity measures, enhanced its commitment control systems.All erring controlling officers will be held to account in line with the Public Finance Management Act.

Monetary and Financial Sector Policies

4.11 Financial conditions have been tight, in part due to the high fiscal deficit, debt service and the build-up in arrears. This has led to an
increase in inflation, credit crunch, and therefore limited resource to spur private sector economic activities. Dismantling of arrears will be
prioritized to ease pressure on the financial sector.

4.12 Measures that are being taken to contain the high levels of external debt will further help in augmenting reserve build up and stabilization of the exchange rate of the Kwacha.

5. Engagement With the IMF and Other Cooperating Partners

5.1 The last formal meetings between the Government and the International Monetary Fund were held in Lusaka from 13th to 19th November, 2019.
The IMF Mission was in the country at the invitation of Government to discuss recent economic developments and the economic outlook for
2020 and the medium term. Based on the outcome of the mission in November and the debt and fiscal measures I just alluded to,Government will work with the IMF to define a working relationship with them and determine the nature of its support to the Government.

5.2 We have written and advised the Fund of the measures that Government is undertaking to address debt sustainability. The next engagement with the Fund will be held from 18th March to 1st April, 2020.

5.3 Government recognizes the support that we receive from cooperating partners in social and economic sectors such as education, health,
energy and agriculture. We will therefore continue our engagement and interaction with cooperating partners as we value their support.

6. CONCLUSION

6.1 As Government, we will ensure that we implement the debt management measures as directed by Cabinet. We will also enhance revenue collections whilst remaining mindful of the need to support private sector growth. We will continue to engage cooperating partners to support our growth and development agenda.

6.2 Through implementation of the measures that I have outlined, we shall return the country to debt sustainability and get the economy on the
path to recovery. The measures and policies are sound and should have the support of the Zambian people. What is required is effective and sustained implementation. We are therefore, all called to action.

17 COMMENTS

  1. These are not leaders we can allow to be in charge after the 2021 elections the faster the disappear from leadership the better for this country becoz the truth is they are at sea in as far as this country’s economy is concerned

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  2. Same Story Mr N’gandu … u tell us of the growing debt and then of the measures; cancelling some contracted loans, stopping some projects below 80% completion, restructure some debts bla bla bla all forms of austerity measures … we have heard it all before from Mutati till now you dont sound any different. You always announce these measures but every time you give economic position Ka Boom! The Debt has grown

  3. This incompetent PF Mob need to surrender to the people of Zambia and leave government voluntarily. How on earth do you pick up so much debt that you can not afford to pay? What priorities were made in the use of that money? Do these fools realise that this debt will be paid by our grand grand children? Honestly every Zambian must be enraged by this unsustainable debt! And ECL had the audacity in Chilubi to brag that he is the only one with the money! – He should be ashamed of himself for failing to lead this country. Any minutes this government is in government is digging this nation into poverty and they should be kicked out of government come 2021. My blood is boiling for our future childeren and grandchildren who will be paying this stupid debt.

  4. Our repeated figures of $17 billion debt stand good.

    Instead of waiting for foringners, When GRZ starts driving the establishment of manufacturing and assembly to cut imports and drive up exports , only then will you see a meaningfull economic boom….

  5. GDP at 2 %, this means very little goods and services are being produced and explains why there is massive unemployment especially among youths. Inflation has been understated the actual figure is more than 20% going by the high cost of living . Lending rates averaging 28.0 percent but the actual rate depending on the borrower is more than 50 % that the banks are charging. With rates so high this makes investing in PF Zambia unattractive proposition. This is a very deep hole PF have dug and they are not going to get the country out of it . The cause has been indiscipline on expenditure which has continued unabated .

  6. Does the minister believe what he is saying? The country is in so much economic trouble but he is expecting the economy to grow above 3% in 2020? How? Reserves are at $1.4 billion, equivalent to 1.6 months of import cover. How is this something to engender hope? Is it normal to count on donor grants in the national budget? How would the govt know if these are General/Direct Budget Support or Project Support funds which go directly to projects? Can this not explain why many sectors were underfunded in the previous budgets? Cooperating Partners are ditching Zambia and some we are antagonising by refusing to accept the facts. The minister notes that food production, electricity generation and supply have suffered due to climate change but he expects a bumper harvest and the…

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  7. GDP at 2%, this means very little goods and services are being produced and explains why there is massive unemployment especially among youths. Inflation has been understated the actual figure is more than 20% going by the high cost of living. Lending rates averaging 28.0 percent but the actual rates depending on the borrower is more than 50 % that the banks are charging. With rates so high this makes investing in Zambia unattractive proposition. This is a very deep hole they are not going to get the country out of it . The cause has been an insatiable on expenditure which has continued unabated .

  8. The problem is the cabinet they over priced in every projects to keep the money in their pockets and now having 11.2 billion debts.what projects did they do? Chipata to Lundazi so many portholes kkkkkkkkkk or maybe I say drumholes.Lundazi to Chama it’s still gravel road since B.C. 7 hours driving 200kms.we are waiting for HH to be in power and arrest all cabinet mini skirts including their boss E chagwesa zambia Lungu . every time I go to my home town Lundazi I feel like not driving far fear to get stuck on road.

  9. I don’t think HH will keep Bwalya Ngandu in 2021, he sounds lazy.
    The best is to hire a white guy who can negotiate with Chinese on that debt.

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  10. Why why why keep on borrowing when you are failing to pay back. Where do you want this debt to reach? Is it 50 billion?

  11. Meanwhile [email protected] [email protected] ayingo yaka, ku mbululuka, naku fyanta [email protected] mu State House!
    Meantime Coffin Bulldozer uya atobaula ama Coffin ku kantolomba -aka B0wman tells us he is “enjoying the SWEETNESS OF POWER, whilst eating Cheese” & will NEVER give it up, even if they are democratically thrown out for gross incompetence & plunder! Would LOVE to see B0wman end up like Samuel Doe. Only way such virus’ learn how to behave & conduct themselves when in power, ensuring they NEVER abuse p0wer with reckless impunity!!

  12. This honest communication is a step in the right direction. It’s something lacking in the past. Now we know the picture of our economy, it’s frail. It’s not a one man issue but for every person whose future is in zambia.

    Whether PF continues or is ousted this picture is important. Let’s not fantasize that somebody will turn this round magically. This economy needs hard working for our own good. Biggest problem is ulesi pa Zambia and poor quality of anything done by a Zambia. Let’s improve on that.

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  13. “The re-scoping exercise in the road sector will reduce project costs from K10 billion to K1.4 billion.”

    If you doubted the truth about the PFs wastage and lack of knowledge about economics, that the whole PF crew is clueless here is proof. Dr Bwalya Ngandu, thanks for the update, if you really consider replacing Hamble this year, I pledge my 100% loyalty to vote him out .

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