WE are a cursed country, says Ackson Sejani.
He says the hiring of Lazard Freres of France, on a US $5 million three-year contract, to advise government on liability management of the country’s debt stock is a case of “advising incompetent leaders in Africa becoming a major industry by some smart western boys”.
“Lazard will tell [President Edgar] Lungu to stop borrowing, something that he has heard before. They will tell him to observe discipline. They will tell him that authoritarian tendencies scare away investors and behave Mr President,” Sejani said. “All these he has heard from Zambians on many occasions but he prefers to spend $5 million to hear the same things being said by Lazard. We are a cursed country!”
He said incompetence, arrogance and lack of vision were a costly cocktail to any country.
“This is particularly so in our country Zambia. Every sensible voice has been heard trying to advise Mr Lungu’s government to borrow responsibly because our debt was becoming unsustainable. Instead of paying attention to these voices Mr Lungu arrogantly poured scorn on them and declared that he will continue to borrow and nobody will stop him,” Sejani noted.
“We have just been commemorating the Africa Day where the feeling continues to be that we are not yet truly free until we achieve economic independence as well. In fact, if anything at all, colonialism is coming back to us in a new form.”
He said part of the reason for “this neo-colonialism” is the sheer greed, incompetence and corruption of post-independence African leaders. “A leadership that is corrupt and mismanages their resources. A leadership that over borrows but fails to properly invest in productive ventures such as agriculture, mining and tourism. Instead they borrow for consumption and to fund political schemes designed to perpetuate their stay in power,” Sejani said. “Because of the above they fail to pay back their debt because it was unprofitably used. Because of this they will start surrendering their prized assets including land upon which our independence struggle was based. Incompetent leaders bringing back the colonialists. They will take our land away and some will be brought back to advise us on how to manage our debt and on how to run our country. This is the case of LAZARD, the French company Mr Lungu has hired to advise him on how to govern and manage the debt. Advising incompetent leaders in Africa has become a major industry by some smart western boys.”
He regretted that 56 years after independence Zambia still needed to call back the colonialists to “tell us how to run our affairs”.
“So here we are! We must borrow more money to hire Lazard to come and tell us not to over borrow. To come to tell us not to misuse our natural resources such as mukula and gold. To come and tell us not to use borrowed money on buying opposition councillors, luxury jets, bill 10 and other corrupt and unproductive ventures,” lamented Sejani. “When Hakainde Hichilema and others sing about these issues daily we arrogantly turn a deaf ear. What kind of leaders are leading Zambia now?”
On Wednesday, secretary to the treasury Fredson Yamba announced that Freres was picked against five other competitors.
“…The proposed contract amount for the best evaluated bid is a maximum of US $5,000,000 which is negotiable by mutual agreement, and payable based on work done over a period of three years,” stated Yamba. “…As we have done in the past, the government of Zambia intends to use the services of the financial advisors in line with signed agreements with lenders; multilateral, bilateral and private. I take this opportunity to restate that the government has no intention of unilaterally restructuring debt without consulting creditors. We will respect agreements and diligently use market-based instruments in our debt management.”
Other bidders were Newstate Partners, Potomac Group, Deustche Bank and Rothschild & Company, Absa Bank and Barclays Bank PLC, and White Oak Advisory Limited.