Patriotic Front (PF) vice president Mr. Given Lubinda has challenged the United Party For National Development (UPND) to tell the nation about the hidden debt they said the party, whilst in Government, had accrued.
This follows the ministerial statement to parliament yesterday by Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane who said the stock of Central Government external debt as at the end of June 2021 stood at US $12.91 billion external debt and $ 1.5 billion domestic debt bringing the total Government debt to $14.48 billion dollars.
Mr. Lubinda said following the ministerial statement, the UPND Government should come out clean and tell the nation where the insinuated hidden debt is, adding that the UPND Government is full of untruthful people who are bent on destroying the nation.
Mr. Lubinda commended PF parliamentarians for standing up to what he described as the UPND lies.
“The UPND is a bunch of liars and they never tell the truth. The UPND Government was lying about the country’s debt burden and they have been caught napping. They should tell the nation where the hidden debt is,” Mr. Lubinda said.
“The borrowed money went into improving the welfare of Zambians through massive infrastructure development and am proud of the PF parliamentarians for standing up and call their bluff,” he said.
Yesterday, Dr. Musokotwane said that there was a need to institutionalize the practice of an outgoing Government to state the status of the economy as it leaves the administration of the country, and that, similarly, the incoming administration should also give the status of the national economy indicating what it has found, in order to serve the much-needed data for national development.
Dr. Musokotwane explained that the practice of that nature requires that the data set for making the report be comprehensive and accurate.
In a statement, the Finance and National Planning Minister pointed out that currently, the data sets are not adequate in some critical areas citing employment data as an example.
Dr. Musokotwane emphasised that the national economy is faced with challenges such as sluggish growth, fiscal deficit, inflation and high interest rates which have brought about the suffering of the people.
“It is desirable that an economy must grow, all the times. In simple terms, this means that the production of goods and services must increase from one period to the next. In practical terms, farming produce must be higher than it was in the previous period. The same must happen in other goods and services such as mining output, manufacturing, tourism visitors and so forth,” the minister stressed.
Dr. Musokotwane, who is also Liuwa Member of Parliament, said in 2020, the economy contracted by 2.8 percent, whereby the production of goods and services became smaller than levels attained in 2019.
He underscored that the shrinking of the national economy could be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the blowing up of the debt crisis as well as huge payment of external debt.
The Finance Minister disclosed that the national debt as at June 2021 stood at US$14.48 billion, which is broken down as US$12.91 billion for Central Government and US$1.57 billion for parastatals that government guaranteed to the creditors.
“The debt that I have highlighted above is just external component. But there is also substantial domestic debt including areas to suppliers that the government must deal with and this makes the situation worse. Very soon I will provide to the house a comprehensive statement on the national debt and measures being undertaken to deal with it,” he said.
He revealed that the external debt has risen from less than US$2 billion in 2011 to the current levels of about US$14.5 billion.
He said this reflects one of the worst economic blunders made in the last ten year.
On economic growth, Dr. Musokotwane explained that for 2021, preliminary estimates indicate that the economy grew by 0.5 percent in the first quarter while it registered 8.1 percent growth in the second quarter.
Delivering his ministerial statement on the state of the economy in parliament today, Dr. Musokotwane further projected that the economy will grow by 2 percent for the whole year.
And Dr. Musokotwane said the ‘new dawn’ administration has already recorded progress in the quest to turn the economy of the country around.
He explained that that reduction in the prices of basic goods and services as well as an appreciation of the local currency, the Kwacha, are pointers of the UPND administration’s efforts.
He explained that within the shortest period of time, there will be massive employment opportunities for youths and the general citizenry.
Delivering his ministerial statement on the state of the national economy in parliament today, the minister, who is also Liuwa Member of Parliament, emphasized that the government has laid a strong foundation for development that will start manifesting next year.
“There are various sectors of the economy that will provide massive opportunities for jobs and these include but not limited to tourism and arts, agriculture and infrastructure among the others. Members of this August house, the new dawn administration has started to retain positives in the economy such as, reduced exchange rate, prices for most goods and services are going down, among others,” he stressed.
He said the rising copper prices that are expected to be higher in the next 15 years is a gateway to the retention of the economic boom.
Dr. Musokotwane projected that the government will upscale the production of copper from one million metric tonnes to three million metric tonnes in the following years.
“Government remains keen on the economic growth through copper prices that will remain high in the next 15 years and the government will improve the amount of copper extracted in terms of volumes and tonnages, “he said.
Meanwhile, during the time of clarification to the statement, Lunte Member of Parliament Mutotwe Kafwaya wanted to know the exact debt of the country to the lenders.
In response, the Finance Minister urged fellow lawmakers to exercise patience as he will issue a statement on the country’s debt to the house later in the week.
He further stated that towards the month-end on the instruction of President Hakainde Hichilema, he will present the 2022 national budget.
Dr. Musokotwane projected that the budget will point to the ambitious transformative journey of no return to poverty, but one to prosperity for all.