Sunday, June 23, 2024

Here is how Corruption has Ruined Zambian economy

(Excerpts from my new book on China-West Battleground in Africa: Debt Ridden Zambia)


By Mwansa Prospery Chalwe

There is a very vague picture about what the impact of corruption on the day to day lives of ordinary people is. In this article, I will show how endemic corruption negatively impacts any economy in the world including that of Zambia based on supporting empirical econometrics evidence in my book.

For the purpose of clarity, there are three main categories of corruption which are: bureaucratic corruption, economic corruption and political corruption. All the aforementioned types of corruption exists in Zambia at endemic levels.

The major problem that we have in Zambia and Africa, is that those who profess to fight against corruption, and the so called experts, are unable to simplify and explain to an ordinary person such as a villager, the compound or shanty town dweller, HOW, this scourge of corruption directly affects them. Corruption is only talked about in abstract terms. I will attempt to simplify and explain in summary, using three proven technical economic costs of corruption – low GDP, Excess public Debt and Low Tax revenue.

I will demonstrate how endemic corruption can be traced to Zambia’s current high cost of living, high youth employment, the shortage of medicines in hospitals, under funding of social services such as education, high poverty levels and social ills such as political violence, based on the Zambian experience. My appeal to readers in my country is: please do not politicize my article. This is intellectual and patriotic stuff and not for knee jerk commenters who lack tools of analysis and rationale.

From the technical point of view, it has been proven empirically that countries like Zambia with perceived high level of corruption have slow economic growth in terms of GDP, excessive government debt, lower tax revenue, higher income inequality and high fiscal deficits. This is not in dispute to the knowledgeable – those who bother to read.

As Zambians, we should agree that there is no need to debate or argue about the existence massive corruption in our country as it has already been admitted by the highest level office in the land. Our area of focus should, therefore, be to educate the people on how corruption affects their daily lives and what, we as a nation, should do about it, as no country ever developed with endemic corruption.

Zambia’s Head of State is on record as having confirmed the existence of corruption in country. The President, His Excellency Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, openly admitted the existence of corruption. In 2016, when swearing in five Ministers, he announced that some of his ministers were involved in corrupt practices and had acquired immense wealth in a very short period of time.

“Lately, I have seen an increase in acts of corruption amongst our people. We have integrity committees at places of work and ministries but they are not working. There is so much corruption, so much corruption that you can smell it,” President Lungu said. “I have seen deposits in people’s accounts, huge amounts on a daily basis, for people who are not in industry, business, commerce or trade. It shows that there is something wrong here. Desist, keep away, refrain because very soon, I will be firing people, I will be firing cabinet ministers,” he said.

Apart from the Head of State’s admission, the respected Transparency International’s annual reports have confirmed the same. Zambia’s corruption perception index has deteriorated since 2013. The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International revealed that Zambia’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has dropped by one point from 34 in 2019 to 33 in 2020. In 2018, Zambia had a score of 35 and was placed 18th in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and in 2017 it had a score of 37. It is clear that Zambia’s corruption perception index has been worsening four years in row.

The first technical economic cost of corruption is its hindrance of the economic growth and development of a country. In other words, it results in lower level Gross Domestic Product (GDP).This does not make sense to the man in the street. Let me simplify how this occurs. When a country has high level of corruption, most credible foreign investors avoid that country. If one was to go and do an analysis of the quantum of foreign direct investment inflows into Zambia in 2011 and 2021, they are likely to find the answer. The local investors also reduce the amount they can invest. This is for two reasons, one, the cost doing business goes up due to the required bribes. Two, the perceived risk of the country goes up as there is inherent insecurity in the economy due to the politicization of the economic environment. The net result of all this is that because of corruption there is less production of goods and services by companies and individuals as a result there is reduced economic activity, resulting in high unemployment levels.

The other issue that is closely connected to slow economic growth and the consequential high unemployment figures in Zambia, relates to empowerment programmes. The Zambian government has implemented so many financial assistance programmes in the past ten years. Studies have shown that financial empowerment programs are ineffective in a corrupt environment as they tend to be selective. The main reason is that due to patronage and cronyism, awards of grants are not made on merit and the wrong people are given grants which are based on political affiliation and their projects end up failing.

Also, when corruption is endemic, with high level of patronage and cronyism, merit goes out of the window and preference is given to unqualified Party cadres. The result is the economy becomes inefficient. This is a situation where contracts and key jobs in government and quasi government institutions are not given on merit. Innovators and talented entrepreneurs who can add value and create jobs are excluded from the economic system as well as highly qualified individuals are excluded. This is happening in Zambia at political, government and parastatal levels. It is not surprising that there are poor decisions being made due to quality of human resources running government and state institutions.

Econometric analysis has also proved that one of the main economic costs of corruption is the high level of public debt of a nation. There is overwhelming empirical evidence all of the world to prove that corruption results in excessive public debt accumulation. The question one may ask, as usual is: how does this happen? There are two ways this occurs. The first one is that corrupt public officials are incentivised to borrow because they stand to benefit directly from the commission of the debt contracted. Alternatively, public officials are incentivised to accumulate unnecessary debt to fund unnecessary infrastructure projects from which they will get bribes from contractors who are awarded projects. It has been proven that in countries with high level of infrastructure projects, there is so much corruption driven excess debt accumulation. There is so much borrowing for wrong priorities due to potential personal benefits to government officials which is very common place. It has also been proven that defence contracts are a major conduit for corrupt deals and excessive public debt.

There are critics of the current administration in Zambia, who allege that the above scenarios are all obtaining in Zambia. They argue that although not all public debt can be attributable to corruption, there has been substantial unnecessary and excessive debt that Zambia has accumulated that must have been corruption driven. As a result, ordinary Zambians are suffering from the high cost of living due to the kwacha depreciation caused by excessive foreign borrowing. The lack of jobs for the youth are also partly attributed to corruption and its consequential excessive borrowing by government; which has overcrowded the private sector, who cannot borrow at high interest rates to start or expand their businesses. The high debt servicing levels which is over 40% of government budget revenue has resulted in high taxes by Zambians. In addition, the high amount of revenue being used to service the debt has contributed to the shortage of medicines in hospitals and other social services.

Corruption is also said to impede the amount of tax revenue collected in a given country. Tax revenue is significantly affected by corrupt activities and results in the reduction of the amount of tax revenue collected. Data from studies carried out demonstrate that countries with higher corruption levels tend to have relatively lower tax revenue-GDP ratios. From the technical point of view, therefore, there is no doubt that nations with high corruption levels tend to collect fewer tax revenues in relation to GDP. But what does this mean to the man on the street? This simply means, there will be less money to buy medicines, less money to fund education, less money to fund farmers’ subsidies and of course there will be need to borrow more money to finance these activities.

The issue of corruption having a direct impact on the performance of the economy has clearly been demonstrated this article. This should not be a partisan issue and all Zambians are supposed to be united across the political divide. There is more than sufficient empirical evidence to show that countries with high level of corruption perform poorly economically on almost all economic indicators. They have lower GDP, lower tax collection, high debt levels, high income inequality, high government deficits and high levels of unemployment. Zambia appears to fit this narrative.

I have extensively covered how corruption affects an economy like Zambia in my book, this article is only a tiny little bit and only comprises the excerpts my book. Below is the link to the book.


The Writer is a Chartered Accountant and Author. He is a financial commentator and Analyst, and an Op-Ed Contributor to the Hong Kong based, Alibaba owned, South China Morning Post (SCMP).


    • KK hated corruption, has DEC started investigating the chap who said he has 70 properties, the tribal chap

  1. Developed countries are not as susceptible to corruption as developing countries. In other words, the more developed the country is, the less the prevalence of corruption. This means that corruption becomes insignificant as the country achieves significant economic progress. Corruption is not necessarily a moral issue but a legal issue. Educated people are the responsible for fighting corruption. Educated people are likely to be healthy. Educated people are more likely to practice family planning. Educated people are more likely to make savings for the rainy day. Hence, focus on infrastructure development to facilitate social and economic development.

  2. Corruption started when that bush Boy HH decided to facilitate the sale of our parastatals to the lowest bidder who gave the highest bribe. He now claims to be a self made millionaire and yet he is just a thief

  3. What these western based African commentators lack is deep analysis of the African situation. While the corruption narrative is easy to drive home, what about the root causes like high interest rates, compounded capital flight by multinationals which deprives the nations of their wealth, this lack of wealth deprives governments the ability to research to reposition for example our education system to train citizens to harness available natural resources to mention a few. Africa exports over $88bn per year according to UNCTAD; compound that from 2011 to 2021 Mr Chalwe-would we have that much debt????

  4. I stopped reading when i reached the word villager. The guy is trying very hard to hide his political affiliation and is assume everyone knows about his book.

  5. That may be the case, but corruption in Zambia has gone right down to the grassroots and so many people are now benefiting even if the state coffers are empty. Chishimba Kambwili has boasted that he has many properties, but that is information he VOLUNTEERED to court and not what the arresting officers discovered on interview. Chitalu Chilufya was arrested before the ACC could know his many other sources of income. If these people paid taxes, the government would easily have had that information. Some ministers are using their wives’ (maiden) names for businesses they fund from graft. They own properties around Lusaka and the wives collect rentals in cash. Cadres have been ’empowered’ to be agents for citizens seeking government services like Car registration at RATSA or ZRA. It takes…

  6. Lungu , most of his family who were broke before 2011 are now multi millionaires.

    90 % of the corrupt morons cabinet are corrupt.

    Statehouse is the nerve center for corruption.

  7. The fraud convict corrupt thieving moron lawyer lungu will not even publicly state he is not corrupt.

    His corruption and stealing is the main reason he never ever holds a press conference incase he gets asked about how he made $2.1 million after 18 months in office

  8. Anyone on this platform who has ever offered and/or received a bribe is not worth listening to. Anyone who was living an average life before getting connected to political and government power and is now within a short time living in bliss with the ability to afford pretty much given goods has corrupted their way up. It is as simple as that!

  9. Only PFcadres with little education like Kaiser Zulu do not understand the meaning of this article.

    The article is clear that corruption in Zambia is endemic and all this has been caused by Chagwa Lungu s drunkenness. He is always drunk by 10am every day leaving id1ots like KZ to run the country. How preposterous!

    No manner of PF violence or intimidation will stop Zambians from exposing PF corruption and fighting it head on the ballot box. Uno umwaka PF aleya.

    Chakolwe Lungu is not at peace with himself at the moment. Kazafa mangemange na ma worries na kukolewa.

    PF and Lungu must go by any means possible

    By Wanzelu.

  10. It’s the people who are most profiting from corruption like that troll KZ, and the entire Lungu family, who will deny even the existence of corruption. But it’s endemic at all levels. Even obtaining a vaccination shot for Covid-19 costs K500 and no ordinary Zambian can afford that!

  11. Corruption would not be an issue if the country had strong leaders. People take advantage of the weak because they get to benefit through wrongdoing. Zambia needs a strong leader a displinarian and not weak easy to take advantage of leaders.

  12. Who is this @Kaizar Zulu, who has the courage of insulting at will and what’s his background?
    By the way corruption breads rigged elections because thieves have to protect what they have stolen at all cost. Davies Mwila put clear to PF, “if we don’t do everything possible to win most of the PF leadership will jailed after 12 August”.

  13. “…Alternatively, public officials are incentivised to accumulate unnecessary debt to fund unnecessary infrastructure projects from which they will get bribes from…” Unnecessary infrastructure??? Are Chilenje, Chawama, Matero, Chipata Level 1 (district) hospitals unnecessary infrastructure?? Is the Road that connects Eastern and Muchinga provinces unnecessary?? Mr. Chalwe seems to have no hands on experience of the Zambian situation except what he is informed about in western capitals making his analysis quite shallow and vague thus focusing on unproven corruption allegations that can’t even make it to our Courts! The only thing I can support him on is the empowerment schemes-those are poorly implemented and excecuted but are not big enough to affect our GDP.

  14. Rigged elections are “fertilizer” for corruption, nepotism, tribalism, mediocre and laziness. Look at most the people buying expensive houses and cars, they can’t explain where they got the money.
    Could you do that on KK’ s days?

  15. Whatever this article is about, let me tell you all that corruption and all forms mentioned herein is there in USA, BRITAIN, RUSSIA, SOUTH AFRICA, CHINA, CHURCH, WORLD etc
    Any leader or leadership which will preach that they will end corruption would be lying. Ama levels fye.
    Any leader who will say they will be reducing levels of corruption, they will be saying the truth.
    You only reduce and not end corruption. Y’all are corrupt beings, corruption is endemic to humans. Man ain’t an incorruptible seed. To help reduce corruption, relevant institutions of Governance are formed.

  16. Corruption wont end as long as we have a dead institutions of governance, how do you explain DEC investigating somebody who has 48 houses and leave out Kambwili who has openly declared that he has more than 70 properties. Which is greater 70 or 48, even if you are using add maths, algebra, calculus or what ever maths formulas, 70 will always be bigger than 48, I am sure these instituitions are still waiting for the President to give instructions, Labbish

  17. Zambia is worth trillions so instead of precasting on how one could claw back the pennies, let’s fight to strengthen the institutions that offer checks and balances and fight to change the laws to make it difficult for these thieves to loiter. We need to review the presidential powers because these are based on a monarch. Zambia’s laws are still based on the old colonial documents which stated Queen and country and all we did was remove Queen and replaced it with President. Too many cowboys are roaming Zambia freely. This needs to change.

  18. Comment Number 5: It is highly unusual for a person to have so much hatred for another mortal. If you have ever walked the corridors of a school, take time to read about the Privatization Act and how insignificant HH’s role in the process was. And this article is actually not about “privatization.” In your narrow mind, every article is about HH and UPND. You seem to have memorized and rehearsed comments … what a mental retard! All your online comments are sickening and truly reflect the mind of an imbecile.

  19. As long as we believe that from being a mere councillor, Talasi Ngulu can amass so much and we dont even question her, Corruption is here to stay

  20. #24  Umwine Wachisushi
     July 7, 2021 At 4:42 pm

    “As long as we believe that from being a mere councillor, Talasi Ngulu can amass so much and we dont even question her, Corruption is here to stay….”

    The people in power and most of the PF think it is her right to amass doubious wealth while she is the presidents daughter…….

    We , the citizens can question and they just ignore……..

    Only at change of GRZ will be the time to answer us…..

  21. Many readers here provably don’t have the moral right to complain. To stop a bigger evil, sometimes you can start with the ‘smaller sins’, to create a culture of right living. To fight corruption, it should start with all readers on this page with simple steps:
    Stop bribing traffic police to get out of a traffic fine
    Stop bribing customs officers in your imports
    Stop buying favors to avoid queues and other services – eg passport office, NRCs etc
    We could all add more but I’m sure you catch the drift…
    Nothing is permanently lost until right thinking people give up.

  22. I’m perplexed that even the corrupt one @ Kaizar is commenting because he was fired by ECL for corruption. Ichalo ichi.

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