CHIEF government spokesperson Dora Siliya says the Ministry of Finance is considering talking to Zambia’s lenders to have the country’s debt re-profiled and delayed.
Addressing the media in Lusaka yesterday, Siliya, when asked to explain how government was addressing the debt situation in the country, stammered her way out of the question by saying the Minister of Finance was looking at how the government could get better negotiating terms regarding Zambia’s debt crisis.
Finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe recently disclosed that the country’s external debt has increased to $9 billion, but analysts have put the figure at around $20 billion.
“I am aware that the Minister of Finance is giving a number of briefings and that even in parliament at some point, she will give a statement and I am aware that she will be on various media in the coming weeks to discuss these very issues because they pertain specifically to the Ministry of Finance. She is on record…that discussions with our partners and stakeholders will continue and that we are all clear on what the debt levels are and that the government has taken a lot of austerity measures to avoid wastage. Like I said, no government minister…including what you see the Works and Supply doing right now to make sure that government vehicles and fuel are not abused outside working hours, to ensure that in terms of procurement, it is done in a manner that there is no wastage and there is efficiency,” Siliya said.
“Just to make sure that expenditure on one hand is as efficient as possible and also to look for other means for revenue generation, the Minister of Finance is quite pre-occupied with expanding the economy; we cannot shadow that, we have to grow the economy and in growing the economy and meeting today’s needs, we must also pay the debt that is coming in the future. I think the Minister of Finance is equal to the task and things I know she has talked about on record are issues to do with re-profiling of the debt, issues to discuss further better terms of the debt, issues with financing the deficit gap, she has been in discussion with various stakeholders, not just the IMF, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, its other cooperating partners.”
She further said the government was planning on various modalities on how to pay the first Eurobond payment in 2022.
Asked on government’s capability to pay, Siliya said: “We will know the capability (of paying back) when we get to 2022…it is because we are now planning that for us to be able to pay the first Eurobond in 2022, four years from today, these are things that Minister of Finance is putting in place; reducing government expenditure, unnecessary expenditure and trying to see how we can increase revenue generation, trying to see if we can talk to the people we owe in terms of re-profiling the debt and maybe delay the payment. The Minister of Finance is looking at ways we can get better negotiating terms; these are things the minister is doing to make sure we have the capability when the time to pay comes.”
And Siliya said government had not allowed the teaching of witchcraft at the University of Zambia, saying the social media rumour is “totally untrue”.
Responding to social media reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage which was linked to witchcraft, Siliya said the statement given by Dr Charles Ndakala, the Zambia National Commission for UNESCO secretary general, did not, in any way, say the University of Zambia would be teaching witchcraft.
Dr Ndakala’s statement stated that despite efforts in safeguarding cultural heritage, there were cases of destruction of priceless culture heritage in certain countries, which threatened traditions and customs.
“I have heard and seen in the paper today that there is a lot of discussion on witchcraft being taught at the University of Zambia and this is a result of the meeting that took place I believe yesterday or the day before at which people are insinuating that the UNESCO country commissioner talked about witchcraft…I have here with me the statement given by the commissioner, his name is Dr Charles Ndakala…nowhere in his statement does it refer to witchcraft,” said Siliya.
“The whole basis of this statement is to share with the nation that the University of Zambia, government with the support of UNESCO, has begun a programme at the University which has to do with Intangible Culture Heritage and in this statement, many examples have been given as this to refer to music, to refer to dances, to refer to proverbs, to refer to any cultural practices that are intangible. This is part of what UNESCO supports…There is nowhere government has allowed the teaching of witchcraft at the University of Zambia, that’s totally untrue…”