Former Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande has challenged the government to disclose the economic reforms that have been agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and how ordinary citizens will benefit following the announcement that Zambia’s bid to get onto the 3 year IMF program was successful.
Speaking to the local radio station, Radio Phoenix, Mr Magande said that it is difficult to celebrate the $1.3billion IMF-supported program without the government disclosing the reforms that have been agreed upon and what agreements have been arrived at with the creditors.
Mr Magande reminded stakeholders that the recently announced package from the IMF, does not outline the outcome of the program with Zambia’s creditors who in essence, the country is seeking relief from due to the high and unsustainable debt.
Mr Magande said that government must explain how the IMF debt will accord Zambians affordable living, what programs will be initiated now to make people’s livelihoods better and how this will impact the cost of living that is currently high.
The $1.3 billion IMF-supported program was this week approved with President Hakainde Hichilema stating that the move was a vote of confidence in his administration which will culminate in jobs for Zambians, a more affordable cost of living and enhanced development prospects for every province.
President Hichilema sentiments were echoed by various stakeholders who welcomed the decision by the IMF to approve the $1.3 billion bailout package for Zambia.
New Hope MMD President Nevers Mumba said that the approval of the $1.3 billion IMF deal to Zambia is a mark of respect and confidence from the international community that the programs that the government has put in place are workable. In congratulating President Hakainde Hichilema and his economic team for this great milestone in restoring confidence in the economy, Dr. Mumba said that he is confident that this approval will lead to a period of an economic boom that will be felt by all Zambians.
Dr. Mumba said that the approval also means that Zambia’s debt is now on a path to being restructured, that the country now has more money to spend on social services such as education and health, interest rates and exchange rates are expected to continue improving and that there will be increased foreign direct investment resulting from increased investor confidence.
The Zambia Association of Citizen Contractor General Secretary Danny Simumba also said that he is optimistic that the approved US$1.3 billion IMF package will enable the government to clear the outstanding debt owed to local contractors in the construction sector.
Mr. Simumba is of the view that the funds will unlock the potential of Zambian contractors by providing them with opportunities to participate in the construction industry.
However, ActionAid Zambia called on the government to reject any IMF conditions or policy steers that will contradict its recent commitments to increase spending on education and health, and recruit more frontline public sector workers.
Organization Country Director Nalucha Ziba said that she is hopeful that president Hichilema and his government have been strong enough to reject stringent measures that may affect social sector spending from the IMF adding that the lack of transparency in these negotiations has been a serious concern for many stakeholders.
The Executive Board of the IMF has approved a three-year arrangement under the extended credit facility for Zambia in an amount equivalent to around US$1.3 billion.