The International Monetary Fund named a new representative to Zambia, two years after the post was vacated.
The appointment of Preya Sharma, a special assistant to the director of the lender’s Africa department, comes after the Zambian government asked Alfredo Baldini to leave in 2018, a move that marked a low point in Zambia’s relations with the IMF.
The nation had sought a loan from the fund since 2016 but failed because of concerns over its borrowing.
Sharma has not yet relocated to Lusaka due to travel disruptions amid the pandemic.
Zambia is pursuing a deal with the IMF for new financing under an economic program, which the country’s creditors see as a crucial step to restructure its $12 billion external debt.
The country is trying to convince bondholders to accept a debt-service holiday and skipped a coupon payment last week, moving closer to becoming the first African nation to default on dollar bonds since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Africa department Director Abebe Aemro Selassie said in an interview that the approval of a new program hinges on the government’s commitment to implement policies to tackle economic imbalances.
“Zambia faces a very difficult debt situation and there is a need for all stakeholders to put their best foot forward for the country to avoid a crisis,” he said.
Mr. Selassie said the IMF has held discussions with the Zambian government and he met Finance Minister Bwalya Ng’andu during the lender’s virtual annual meetings last week.