By Azwell Banda
Satisfied that Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND friends in government mean business to carry Zambia forward towards complete loss of sovereignty from where Fredrick Jacob Titus Mpundu Chiluba failed, the IMF on the 31st of August finally declared that Hakainde’s government is fit to be under its full financial and economic tutelage under its extended “Credit Facility” for three years at approximately US$1.3 billion.
HH and his friends are gushing with glory and self-praise at achieving this enslaving ‘milestone’, under one year in office. Only slaves celebrate debt.
A core fundamental difference with the IMF structural adjustment programmes under Kaunda’s UNIP and the MMD of Fredrick Jacob Titus Mpundu Chiluba is that today, under Hakainde Hichilema, it is none other than the managing director of the IMF herself – Kristalina Georgieva – who has boldly, ignorant of the real truth in her statement, announced to the world in her congratulatory message to Hakainde that in fact this time around, the IMF economic reforms are “homegrown”. This is as it should be: Chiluba was after all incapable of consistently sustaining the IMF draconian economic reforms because he was not a beneficiary of its fruits prior to becoming president. Hakainde Hichilema is personally a proud beneficiary of the disastrous IMF programmes under Chiluba! This IMF programme was grown in his home.
Welcome to the new dawn Zambia under Hichilema, a Zambia with a ‘homegrown’ IMF mass impoverishing, natural resources plundering, debt escalating and sovereignty eroding economic reform programme. If you doubt the seriousness and accuracy of what I am saying, do trust none other than our most eminent purveyor and publicist of ‘foreign investors’ and global finance capital, Chibamba Kanyama, when he says: “Here is what government officials, political leaders and citizens should know from the moment you sign for an IMF loan: you are simply naked! There is a full requirement you disclose all government initiatives. You cannot spend money on any project outside what is agreed (the budget) and the IMF must know and possibly approve if there is any slight change to the plan. It is all about transparent dealings, openness to scrutiny, accountability and integrity. This is what the previous regime in Zambia feared. Full stop!”
Not too cleverly, Chibamba Kanyama does not make it clear that your “nakedness” is only from the eyes of the IMF, not the eyes of citizens of Zambia! It is only now after signing that some of the finer ugly details of the deal Hakainde has struck with the IMF are surfacing in the public domain: the full ’homegrown’ agreement was and remains largely known only at Community House. The IMF and our creditors repeated demands, pleas and written requests to both the government and the IMF of the details of the agreements and the memorandum signed with the IMF have fallen on deaf ears. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva therefore needs to be specific about the ‘home’ in Zambia she is talking about when she says the economic reforms are “homegrown”.
“There is a full requirement you disclose all government initiatives,” Chibamba Kanyama says. Again, he does not specify to whom you make these disclosures. To the IMF, of course, who, in fact do not actually need your disclosures because they already have several eyes and ears, and even mouths, planted in the Bank of Zambia, Ministry of Finance and other core ministries. Not content with this IMF surveillance, Chibamba Kanyama is in fact, of all weird things, calling upon our ‘civil society’ to also join the army of informers to the IMF, should the Zambian government threaten the programme by acting outside it!
Ask any of Hakainde’s ministers to give you the full details of the ’homegrown economic reforms’ and the full details of the projected benefits over the three years for the majority of Zambians: good luck with the quality of the answer you will get! Ask a second minister the same question and the inconsistencies in the answers will shine very brightly and blind you like the midday November sun in the Kalahari Desert.
Chibamba is right when he says: “You cannot spend money on any project outside what is agreed (the budget) and the IMF must know and possibly approve if there is any slight change to the plan.” The word “possibly” makes the reasoning irrational. The IMF must be informed about any proposed changes, and they must approve them, or the programme gets stuck, is suspended, and the drip, drip, drip money from the IMF stops coming!
The IMF is for policing the global finance system on behalf of the US, banks, and the rich. Zambians who care to know and remember recall the mass job bloodbaths, sicknesses and deaths under the IMF programmes – and the IMF would suspend their drip, drip, drip money transfusions at the slightest threat to their programmes. That the IMF programmes were never fully implemented is proof of the fact that the mass suffering, pain, and deaths Zambians experienced posed a political risk to those in government, and they had no choice but to abandon strict implementation of the programmes.
Chillingly, Chibamba Kanyama, obviously speaking also from our Zambian experience itself, says: “The worst thing you do not want to have as a country under an IMF programme is a suspension. It signals to the entire world that you have messed up. Investors panic and all those other cooperating partners freeze support. Your new position can potentially be worse than your situation before the IMF programme.” The ‘investors’ and ‘cooperating partners’ do not panic because your streets are becoming permanent sitting rooms for masses of unemployed young people and street kids and orphans, nor when you start running out of space for graves in your cemeteries as dead bodies keep piling up because of economic hardships.
The IMF sole purpose for existence is to ‘stabilise’ the finances of debt-ridden countries on behalf of official government creditors, commercial banks and other creditors. Unless a debt-ridden country democratically with its own citizens produces its own genuine ‘homegrown’ strategy and plan to stabilise its national finances and manage its debt by bypassing the IMF and forcing direct negotiations with its creditors, the IMF route becomes inevitable as it is a means to protect the money of the rich by extracting maximum possible value for them, by punishing the working class and poor of indebted countries with austerity and entrenchment of the dictatorship of finance capital.
All programmes of the IMF link an indebted country’s use of IMF resources to its adoption of a strict pro-private sector economic restructuring programmes, constriction of government expenditure, austerity, credit ceilings, restrictions on local and foreign borrowing, trade restrictions, exchange rate policies favourable to foreign investments, inflation targeting and other similar measures all designed to squeeze maximum value from the working masses and the poor in order to enrich the banks and creditors, through debt restructuring. A cosmetic sprinkling of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘safety nets’, and lately, limited and controlled government spending on education and health for the ‘most vulnerable’ sweeten the sadistic loss of national sovereignty over economic and public policy, and national finances to the IMF and banks and other financial institutions.
Taken together, with the heavy policing of a country’s economy, budget and expenditures by the IMF, the creditors, once satisfied that the indebted country can sustain these measures and begin to accumulate ‘surpluses’ enough to meet its debt obligation on certain specified terms, may then agree to restructure terms for the country to meet its debt servicing needs. This is the essence of the IMF programme: a country cedes its economic and financial independence to the IMF in return for the IMF to strictly supervise the terms upon which the creditors are happy to have their money from the indebted country, managed.
Concealed in all this is that for the first time, as unlike Kaunda, Chiluba and all other presidents Zambia has had, this time we have a president who stands to vastly increase his personal wealth at the expense of millions of Zambians who are being made to pay the cost of debt restructuring, as he himself benefits from inflows of foreign money into the country, from commissions and by cheaply pawning our natural resources, to foreign money.
In truth, in Hakainde Hichilema we do have a ‘homegrown’ economic restructuring programme with the IMF: the programme was grown in the home of Hakainde Hichilema!
Welcome to the ‘homegrown’ IMF dictatorship of millions of working and poor Zambians!
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