RECENT austerity pronouncements by the Patriotic Front government on the economy have clearly given a signal that the PF have destroyed the economy, says UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma.
Finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe last week announced that President Edgar Lungu Lungu has ordered new austerity measures aimed at getting government out of its current debt crisis.
“The President has ordered cancellation of some existing loans, banned the issuance of letters of credit and guarantees to state owned enterprises, terminated financing of development projects that are below 80 per cent completion and cut down on ministerial travels with immediate effect. The Debt Sustainability Analysis exercise has confirmed that we need to undertake measures to bring debt risk to moderate from the current high risk. Total public external debt as at end March 2018 amounted to US$9.3 billion from US$8.7 billion in 2017. The domestic debt stock (government securities) amounted to K53.5 billion from K48.4 billion over the same period,” stated Mwanakatwe in a statement.
“To cut down on the cost of running government by reducing expenditures related to both local and foreign travel, and workshops, the Secretary to the Cabinet has been directed by the President to immediately issue new travel guidelines that will reduce the number of travels and the size of delegations. The Ministry of Works and Supply will finalise the policy on government vehicles with the view to have them disposed off. This will reduce expenditures on running the government fleet.”
But Kakoma says that this was a clear admission of failure to rule by the PF.
“Weighed down by a debilitating, PF-inflicted debt situation, the government of Edgar Lungu has finally decided to cancel some existing debts and suspended contraction of new debt. This is clear admission of failure to rule by the PF, period. How did they get Zambia to this debt level? When the MMD was leaving office in 2011, total public debt was at $3.5 billion. The PF have moved it to more than $12 billion today. The PF could not listen to any advice. They arrogantly went out to borrow for projects that were meant to prop its political image as a working group,” Kakoma noted. “The nation has not forgotten when Mr Lungu arrogantly retorted to reasonable advice to his government to slow down on debt contraction that they shall borrow if they don’t have the money in order to make sure that the country moves forward. With unbridled arrogance, Mr Lungu said, and we quote ‘…It doesn’t matter if people will talk so much against this. So those who are telling you that government is borrowing too much, when we borrow, we don’t borrow to eat, we borrow to make sure that there is development and people are living well. That is why we are borrowing money. So those saying that we can’t borrow, get out!’”
“Truly, the PF went out to borrow but where has the debt taken the country? Is the country moving forward as claimed by Mr Lungu? Are Zambians living betters lives today as a result of the increased debt? What we have seen following excessive borrowing is that people who entered government as paupers have become extremely rich. They are living in opulence while the majority Zambians are living in perpetual squalor. The PF has lumbered on Zambians numerous taxes and higher electricity tariffs, high fuel prices. They have even brought about a tax on anyone who sinks a borehole! They have milked us dry,” Kakoma stated. “The PF government has not moved Zambians out of poverty and squalor. The PF have instead made foreigners, whom they are favouring in nearly everything, better than the citizens. It is not difficult to conclude that the PF was a serious curse on us. And Zambians were warned that these guys were not fit, [and] are not fit to rule.”
Kakoma stated that Zambians should now open their eyes and see what was happening in the country.
” Now that they have driven us to this level where the country is literally suffocated with debt and have now run out of options, they have taken measures they claim will move the country out of the debt. It is very difficult to trust these guys who have done everything within their limited means to prove their proclaimed lack of vision. Zambians should open their eyes and see. Let them not be a people who have eyes but cannot see and have ears but cannot hear. Let Zambians open their eyes and clearly see that the PF is a bunch of jokers and are not taking Zambia anywhere,” Kakoma stated.
“Zambians have to be vigilant. Recently the Financial Intelligence Centre produced a damning report that revealed high corruption, bribery and money laundering involving PF ministers and other sympathisers. What we have seen is a scathing attack and vilification of the institution by the PF. They would rather FIC is scrapped than expose their members! And their leader, Mr Lungu claims he has not seen the report and cannot act on it! Mr Lungu even told the nation that the FIC report was meant to embarrass his government. Look at their response to serious issues as those raised in the FIC report! As President, Edgar Lungu has power to call for any government document if he is serious about seeing and acting on it.”
Kakoma stated urged President Lungu and the PF to act on the FIC report if they were to be taken seriously.
“He should not look at the faces of those involved. Unless they were doing it for him, Mr Lungu cannot fail to act on the report. Mr Lungu should prove that he is not connected in the plunder matrix exposed in the FIC report by acting on his ministers and other sympathisers who are mentioned. Allow the investigative agencies to act because the public money that has been looted could have worked to stock our hospitals with medicines,” Kakoma stated.
And Kakoma stated that it was a mockery for President Lungu to announce austerity measures and next jumping on a plane to Kenya.
“It is also a mockery that Mr Lungu is announcing measures to restrict trips of his government officials on one hand and jumping on the plane to Kenya the same day. What Irony? And it is shocking that the trip was absolutely not necessary, especially at a time when he had even lost one of his ministers, Victoria Kalima, May Her Soul Rest in Eternal Peace. Mr Lungu must reduce his trips if the measures he has announced will be meaningful. He is the most expensive when it comes to trips. He has clearly contributed a significant share of the cost in running government,” stated Kakoma.