By. Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
The IMF team reached a staff-level agreement with the Zambian authorities on a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for 2022-2025 to help restore macro-economic stability and provide the foundation for an inclusive economic recovery.
The former ruling party, the Patriotic Front Government chased this agreement under various Ministers of Finance; Hon.Felix Mutati, Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe and Hon.Bwalya Ngandu, but to no avail.
So congratulations to Hon. Situmbeko Musokotwane and his team as this is a remarkable achievement.
However, this agreement is based on the Zambian government’s commitment to the IMF to undertake bold and ambitious economic reforms.
Further, the staff-level agreement is subject to IMF Management and Executive Board approval and receipt of the necessary financing assurances.
Government must disclose the details of the commitment the team has made to make “bold and ambitious economic reforms”.
This is an area of backroom agreements and conditionalities that make Governments implement with the IMF, reforms that may be hostile to the social and economic well being of the country.
And it’s this part that is never publicly disclosed to the citizenry.
Will Government remove subsidies that may cause fuel and electricity tarrifs to go up? Will they implement both an employment and a wage freeze for public service workers?
Will Government be made to implement strong austerity measures in the next 3 years?
Will it be forced to restructure and privatise state-owned entities such as ZESCO? Will Government be made to abandon subsidies to the agriculture sector such as scale-down the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) Programme? Will Social Cash Transfer to the poor be affected?
How will Government deal with the current public debt?
How will Government deal with both KCM and Mopani Mines? And the mining policy in general?
This is the part that Government must make full disclosure and inspire honest discussions.
So before Government makes these disclosures, commitments and assurances to the IMF Executive Board, it is imperative that the undertaking and details made to embark on “bold and ambitious economic reforms” are made public.
This helps us remove suspicions, myths and mysteries around the IMF Programme.
Besides, it’s our lives as a nation that will be affected by the “bold and ambitious” decisions.
Make the details public.