FORMER finance minister Situmbeko Musokotwane has asked presidential affairs minister Freedom Sikazwe to empathise with the suffering masses.
When handing over a 72-seat bus to Mpongwe Secondary School on Wednesday on behalf of President Edgar Lungu, Sikazwe claimed that the PF inherited a collapsed economy in 2011, hence the reason for their over borrowing.
“…It is true that some people are crying that we have over-borrowed. There was pressure that we had as government to try and change things. We inherited a very bad economy because of the infrastructure. If we had maintained the same status quo of having the fears of borrowing, today this country would have been a mess,” said Sikazwe. “A poor parent is that one who goes and borrows and misuses. But speaking of this government, when we say we are borrowing to improve on the infrastructure…If a parent borrows to build a house, where is the problem?”
Responding to Sikazwe’s claims, Dr Musokotwane who was the last finance minister in the MMD government said the records were there to show how healthy the economy they left was.
“It is unfortunate that Mr Freedom Sikazwe can talk like that because the statistics are everywhere about the amount of reserves that were left. Not only that, the low level of debt that existed. Not only that, during the first budget that Mr [Alexander] Chikwanda presented to parliament in 2011 as minister of finance he acknowledged the bouncy economy that the MMD government had left behind upon which the PF government was going to build,” he said. “So, the people of Zambia should tell government and say ‘look, come down to our level and take note of the life that we are living now and how things used to be before.’ And all this has been caused by excessive borrowing. It’s unfortunate, I think he should empathise with the ordinary people rather than telling them stories like that because they’re suffering.”
Dr Musokotwane wondered where Sikazwe got expertise from to contradict the first PF finance minister, Chikwanda.
He said Sikazwe should realise that people were suffering due to the debt brought upon them by PF.
“That is also in the domain of the media. So, where does Mr Sikazwe now get the expertise and knowledge to contradict his own former minister of finance in PF?” Dr Musokotwane asked. “Then I also want to say that where Mr Sikazwe talks about the fact that nothing was left and they’ve had to borrow, I think they’re doing this without realising that the ordinary person in Zambia is currently undergoing severe economic difficulties arising directly from the borrowings that the PF government had brought.”
Dr Musokotwane reminded Sikazwe about the healthy economy that the MMD left.
“For example, the Kwacha today which the PF found at five kwacha to a [US] dollar, today it’s at 21. This is a direct result of borrowing excessively. When dollars come in from the mining sector, they are not spent in the country, those dollars go to service debt. So there are no enough dollars, that’s why the exchange rate of the kwacha has fallen,” he said. “Now, arising from this fall in the value of the kwacha, you have seen that the price of fuel has gone up, which they found at something like four, five kwacha per litre, now it is 15, 17 – K15.00 diesel, K17.00 petrol. A bag of mealie-meal that the people of Zambia used to buy for K36.00 so that out of a K100.00 you could buy two bags with change, now out of that K100 you can’t even buy a single bag.”
Musokotwane said no matter how Sikazwe perceived things, the reality was that people were suffering as a result of the government’s reckless borrowing.
“If you look at things like eggs, things like sugar, things like meat, they have all gone up in prices. And all this suffering because of high prices, the main cause of all this is excessive borrowing. So for him I’m sure he does not realise that the people of Zambia are suffering because he may not be suffering himself,” said Dr Musokotwane.