Zambia’s Finance Minister, Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, revealed that the country’s protracted negotiations on debt restructuring are putting pressure on the strength of the Kwacha. He noted that the prolonged negotiation process has caused some people who are supposed to buy government bonds to hold on to them, further exacerbating the situation.
Dr. Musokotwane made this statement during a virtual interaction with Zambians on the Ministry of Finance Facebook and Zoom accounts. He stated that measures are being put in place to stabilize the Kwacha amid the uncertainty surrounding the debt restructuring process.
The Finance Minister’s concerns come at a time when Zambia is facing a severe economic crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s debt burden has risen to unsustainable levels, with the government struggling to repay its creditors. This has led to several lenders, including China, to request debt restructuring talks.
Negotiations on debt restructuring have been ongoing for several months, with no significant progress being made. Dr. Musokotwane’s statement is an indication that the delay is starting to impact the country’s currency, which has been weakening against major currencies like the US dollar.
According to the Finance Minister, the uncertainty surrounding the debt restructuring process has caused investors to hold back from buying government bonds, resulting in a decline in demand. This has put pressure on the Kwacha, which has weakened against major currencies.
To stabilize the Kwacha, Dr. Musokotwane noted that the government is implementing measures such as prudent borrowing, improved fiscal management, and the promotion of non-traditional exports. The government is also seeking support from its development partners and multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide assistance to help stabilize the economy.
The Finance Minister’s comments highlight the urgent need for Zambia to address its debt crisis and put in place measures to stabilize its economy. The country’s high debt burden has limited its ability to invest in critical sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure, hindering economic growth and development.
Zambia’s debt crisis has been a source of concern for several years, with the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rising from 35% in 2014 to over 100% in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, with the country’s revenue streams declining due to reduced economic activity.
To address the debt crisis, the government has sought debt relief from its creditors, including China, which is Zambia’s largest creditor. The government is also seeking support from multilateral institutions such as the IMF, which recently sent a team to Zambia to assess the country’s economic situation.
In addition, Dr. Musokotwane’s comments on the impact of the protracted negotiations on debt restructuring on the strength of the Kwacha are a wake-up call for Zambia to take urgent action to stabilize its economy. The government must work with its creditors and multilateral institutions to find a sustainable solution to its debt crisis, while also implementing measures to promote economic growth and development. Failure to do so will have severe consequences for the country’s economy and its citizens.