FINANCE Minister Felix Mutati has stepped in to “clean up the mess” following recent statements by President Edgar Lungu and national planning minister Lucky Mulusa which threaten the country’s fragile negotiations with the IMF.
Fearing the International Monetary Fund board might raise concerns of declining human rights when scrutinising Zambia’s loan application, President Lungu said the Fund could “go” if they thought he had “crossed the line” by declaring the threatened state of public emergency.
This was after journalists asked President Lungu on whether the measures which invoked Article 31 on the threatened state of emergency would not jeopardize his government’s negotiation for an over a billion dollar aid package that could help bring the country’s economy back on track.
“Everything we do, we consult and I want to be remembered for sticking to the law and be with it to the expectations of the people. If the IMF want to go because of this, let them go. If the IMF feels we have gone beyond the norms of good governance and democracy…they are free to go,” President Lungu said.
Later after President Lungu’s briefing, Mulusa told PF-sponsored media gathering that current signs of economic upturn meant the country did not need support of the IMF which is targeted at boosting Zambia’s balance of payment position.
“Our worst time was between mid 2015 and mid 2016 just before the elections. That’s when the economic downturn had reached the bottom and during that time, we never ever defaulted on any of our international obligations, we never defaulted. Now the economy is picking up as a result of economic activities picking up in China and China is demanding more of our copper so we are able…to export more copper and more revenues through taxes from that copper exports and also bringing in more hard currency in terms of also managing our exchange rate,” said Mulusa.
“What this means is that we can do away with the IMF and our economy will still be vibrant so people must not have this perception that maybe Zambia’s economy has gone berserk and we need bailout from the IMF, no…”
The positions of President Lungu and Mulusa seem to have unnerved Mutati who is Zambia’s chief negotiator with the IMF.
Let’s bring ideas to the table than engaging in premature debates about the programme. The debates should be how can they help and think together with government’s collective wisdom? How can we enhance this performance so that it is much more solid, much more injective, much more inclusive for the people of Zambia? This is a critical point, that should be the debate,
Mutati said when he featured on a special sponsored programme on ZNBC TV on Monday.
He wondered how Zambia was going to grow the economy in the absence of donor aid.
You can’t begin to say that we don’t need it, how are you going to grow the economy? You don’t need China, how are you going to grow the economy? You don’t need EU, how are you going to grow the economy? Our economy is so small, so the issue is not selecting A, B, C, D or E. It the combination of everybody for us to grow the economy, so the debate shouldn’t be aimless about selecting, how can you select when you are so poor? We are not yet there. Until we get there, the choices are limited so let’s not have this idle debate, do we need them? That’s not the debate, the debate should be how do we grow, stabilize and grow the economy, how do we create the jobs, how do we bring in investments that should be the argument?