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Chinese debt is choking Zambia – HH

WE hate what the PF is doing with the Chinese money because it damaging our country, our people and also creating another debt crisis which we don’t want as a country, says Hakainde Hichilema. The UPND leader yesterday disclosed that he wrote the Chinese government to informed Beijing that its loans through the PF government was choking Zambia.

“On Tuesday, August 21, 2018 I wrote a letter to the Chinese Embassy to pass on to the Chinese government, asking the Chinese government not to continue lending money to the corrupt and irresponsible PF government as this was causing a debt and economic crisis to our country,” he said.

Hichilema said he reminded China that the situation was causing a lot of problems to the people as the PF government was clearly using money, for example, granted towards the Lusaka-Ndola highway in a corrupt manner and in turn asking citizens to pay higher taxes such as borehole tax, internet tax and all sorts of taxes to finance debt service which was partially arising from the Chinese debt.

“I made the Chinese government aware that this situation was not tenable, it was unacceptable, and it should not continue,” he said.

Hichilema said his three-page letter articulated the issues why “we think that the Chinese should not continue lending money recklessly to an irresponsible and corrupt PF group.”

 

“My duty is to protect the people of Zambia and I took the bull by the horns by directly writing to the Chinese government, drawing the attention to the negative impact of their loans to the people of Zambia,” he said.

“Very, very clear letter. The letter would be available and must be released in full. We will continue saying that we do not need to sell our assets to the Chinese.

That does not mean that we hate the Chinese government. We hate what the PF is doing with the Chinese money because it damaging our country, it is damaging our people, it is also creating another debt crisis which we don’t want as a country. Very clear message and I will continue doing that. Speaking for the people of Zambia. Debt whether it comes from the Chinese people, whether it is a Eurobond, it is choking our country, it is choking resources which is meant for development, resources meant for health, meant for education, meant for agriculture. That is our duty, we do it without fear, we do it without any reservations at all and we are proud that I’m able to write to the Chinese directly telling them of the negative impact of their lending to the corrupt PF government. I think that’s the way it should be.”

 

In his letter to Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie, Hichilema stated that many experts – Zambian, Chinese and the outside world intimated that the real cost for the Lusaka-Ndola Highway should be between US$500 million and $700 million.

“The purpoted cost of US$1.2 billion is therefore, raising fears that there is corruption in the way the job was procured,” reads the letter in part. “In the eyes of many people, the proposed Lusaka-Ndola Highway is just the epitome of the corruption that has entrenched itself in Zambia. If this project proceeds according to the existing plan, it may well lead to a corruption-based scandal of untold magnitudes.”

He stated that the request [project] was dangerous for the Zambian economy because a single project would push the national external debt to the very limit.

“The government of China should therefore reconsider this loan request,” Hichilema stated.

He stated that as China received requests for new loans from the Zambian government, due consideration must be made of the sustainability of Zambia’s overall total debt in the aftermath of the additional loan requested for.

“Once again, Your Excellency, be assured of UPND’s commitment to a long lasting and fruitful relationship between the Republic of Zambia and the Peoples’ Republic of China based on mutual respect and win-win principles,” stated Hichilema. “China’s financial assistance to Zambia is really appreciated. This mutual benefit relationship can only be sustained if Zambia does not drift into debt stress and bankruptcy. For if the latter were to happen, companies doing business in Zambia – both Chinese and Zambian – will suffer losses and probably close. This is especially so for companies that depend a lot on contracts from the Zambian government, whether self-financed or financed through loans from China.”

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