Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA) Zambia National Coordinator Lutangu Daisy Mwilima has demanded the full disclosure of the IMF programme to give citizens an opportunity to scrutinise it.
“The details of this deal have been kept under wraps and away from the public eye. If it’s good for us as a country, as the government and the IMF claim, I don’t see why it should be such a big secret.”
Ms Mwilima cautioned that the country could not tolerate a situation where anti-poor austerity measures were being imposed, with harsh and damaging impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods. The country remains scarred by the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes of the 1990s which massively contributed to the high levels of poverty and inequality that we see in Zambia today.
Ms Mwilima revealed that FIA has expressed concern about how the government has negotiated the IMF programme. FIA demanded the government to conduct an in-depth assessment of other options beyond the IMF programme, but so far this demand has been ignored.
The FIA National Coordinator said since the IMF programme was nearly concluded and the 2022 National Budget almost depended on it, the alliance is alarmed by the lack of transparency with regards to the IMF loan.
“Our government says we are pursuing an IMF programme, and economic reforms will have to be taken. But we need to know as citizens what exactly these economic reforms are because we are the ones that will be paying back the loan financially and it is us who will feel the pain of austerity” she stated.
“We need a reversal of the current priorities – so that multinational corporations are no longer given tax breaks and citizens are pushed beyond breaking point with the rising cost of living. The poor cannot afford the austerity the IMF and the government are agreeing to on their behalf,” she said.
“So we are getting on an IMF programme and we want to revive the economy. But what are the details of what will be undertaken? What austerity measures are we taking up as a country? Even when the government says the IMF programme is homegrown, what exactly is this economic recovery plan for the UPND government because we do not know what it is as citizens?” she questioned.
The FIA National Coordinator was of the view that in the interest of transparency and accountability to the people of Zambia, there was the need for the details of this loan to be scrutinised by the National Assembly which was the house of representatives.
“The MPs need to know what is in the loan, they need to go back and get feedback from the people that voted for them to go into Parliament in terms with regards to whether this is really what we want or not as Zambians, are these the sacrifices that we want to take? Are there any other alternatives? What sacrifices exactly are we making? How long are we expected to sacrifice for, in short at what cost?” she asked.
Ms Mwilima is concerned that IMF has not been opening up when asked about the deal.
“How can the people of this country be expected to ‘own’ something that is not transparent and has not been subject to public debate and scrutiny?” she questioned.
Ms Mwilima emphasised that her organisation demands that Government discloses in full the details of this IMF programme, allow parliamentary oversight and scrutiny and guarantee that there will be no austerity measures.
“Moves such as the removal of subsidies that have already contributed to rising prices must be reversed,” she said.