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Zambians don’t own the economy right now – Ng’andu

FINANCE minister Bwalya Ng’andu says Zambians don’t own their economy.

He says locals should be the main people driving the economy.

Dr Ng’andu was briefing journalists on the state of the economy in Lusaka yesterday.

After the event, Dr Ng’andu was asked by ZNBC’s Franklin Tembo Jnr what would be success during his tenure in the ministry.

In response, the minister explained that there were a number of things which he would like to see.

Dr Bwalya noted that one of the things he would like to see was a full revival of the Zambian economy.

“We are growing at two per cent or less than two per cent; that has to change. The second thing I want to see is a greater participation of Zambian people in this economy. As you know, we are a mining country but we don’t have Zambians who own any mines or who have any equity interests or financial interests in mining companies,” he said.

“That is something that has to change. I would like to see us taking more responsibility, for example, in building our infrastructure. This is 55 years after independence; really, we should be building our own roads, we should be building our own bridges. For me, that’s what I would like to see and I want us to talk with all the associations that are responsible in developing skills in this area, to work with government.”

Going forward, Dr Ng’andu said, foreign expertise to build the economy, if necessary, would be imported.
“But we should be the main people driving the process. I want to see Zambian engineers doing it and I want to see Zambians owning mines, I want to see Zambians owning banks. I want us to own this economy – we don’t own it right now!” he said.

On the IMF programme, the minister explained that the Fund had “certain expectations” from Zambia.

“They were very clear that one of the things they want to see before we can get down to the programme is exhibiting debt sustainability. Now, the problem with that, and I did mention to them (International Monetary Fund team) in the meeting that when you say that we can only have a programme after you have exhibited debt sustainability, it’s like you are going to give me an umbrella after the rains,” Dr Ng’andu said.

“Is it possible that we can have a meaningful discussion? After we are done with them, we’ll be able to give you an update. But just remember [that] it doesn’t entirely depend upon us; if it was up to us, we would have had the programme last year. But we just have to discuss and see whether we can have it.”

He reiterated that it was no secret that Zambia’s discretionary revenue component was less than 10 per cent.

Dr Ng’andu noted that the implication of such was that what was left: “after we have paid debt and also salaries is less than 10 per cent for everything.

“When I’m talking about servicing debt, I’m talking about serving external debt rather than domestic debt. Because of that, our capacity and ability to service domestic debt has become a problem, which is what we are referring here as arrears. This is money that is owed to people who provide goods and services to government…” he explained.

Earlier, Dr Ng’andu highlighted Zambia’s economic outlook this year and the medium-term.

He said the country’s economic growth this year and the medium-term was expected to be above three percent.

The minister said risks to the medium-term growth projection related to climate change, particularly in the agricultural and energy sectors, ineffective implementation of fiscal consolidation measures and uncertainty in the global economy.

“The fiscal deficit is expected to be around the projected 5.5 per cent of GDP. This will be on account of measures government is undertaking to enhance revenue collection as well as to deal with the debt portfolio,” noted Dr Ng’andu. “Inflation is expected to remain high in the 1st half of the year on account of the pass-through effect of the exchange rate depreciation and the increase in fuel and electricity prices.”

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