2021 budget an academic exercise, says Imenda

ECONOMIST Gertrude Imenda says the 2021 national budget means nothing.

She says the document is an academic exercise that finance minister Bwalya Ng’andu had to read, nonetheless.

Imenda asked what budgetary projections have been realised in the 2020 national budget.

Dr Ng’andu presented the national budget in Parliament yesterday.

Imenda said blame should not even be allotted to COVID-19, because: “the economic fundamentals for this country have been going down even before COVID-19.”

“Our GDP growth, even last year, was already projected at something like three per cent or something like that. But it went down to something like two per cent. It’s not only Zambia which is affected by COVID-19,” Imenda said in an interview. “Yes, their economic growth has been affected but it’s just by some small margin. But with Zambia, economic growth is projected at minus four per cent. Why? It’s because the economy was already gone the downhill. What with the choking debt?”

Imenda said most of the money that was supposed to be used for investment in various sectors to generate economic growth had gone to debt servicing.

“We are left with very little, if not nothing, for investments in the economy. Whatever has been remaining after servicing the debts has been for administration by the government – paying wages and salaries,” she noted. “Look at what they are doing now; infrastructure development is only in Lusaka. Where do you think this money is coming from? They are again borrowing from China, because they want to prepare for elections, to be seen that they are working and so on. But people are poor!”

Imenda underscored that an economy whose basics were theoretically dead could not be said to be thriving.

“Look at the kwacha performance against the dollar! Things speak for themselves, as the lawyers say. What is the dollar rate today?” she asked.

“The exchange rate is an economic fundamental. What about the interest rates? Inflation! But the greatest measure we are concerned about is economic growth which has gone to negative, from seven per cent when these PF people took over.”

Imenda stressed that: “for me this budget is just an academic exercise or an exercise in futility.”

“Compare with the previous budget (this year’s national budget); have any of the economic fundamentals that they projected been achieved? No! What macroeconomic fundamentals are they going to bring to normal levels? They failed to do so even before the outbreak of COVID-19,” explained Imenda. “When I have looked at the budget, you can still come back to me. But all I’m saying is that I’m not expecting anything better. It is the usual thing; he will just speak the language. It’s an academic exercise. But know that when it comes it implementation, there will be nothing. They have failed to engage the IMF!”

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