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Irrational debt justifications

Edgar Lungu’s presidential affairs minister Freedom Sikazwe says the Patriotic Front inherited a bad economy and poor infrastructure which forced the government to borrow.

“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,” says 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?”

This is the most unsound defence of Zambia’s debt we have heard. Sometimes when you have nothing reasonable to say it’s better to keep quiet than exhibit your ignorance.

This government’s irrational borrowing cannot be justified in this simple and naive manner.

This government was advised by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others, to rationalise its infrastructure development projects or risk running into unmanageable debt. They didn’t want to listen. Why? Because rationalising infrastructure development projects would have dried up their personal pockets. They were contractors and subcontractors in these projects. This is where they were enriching themselves.

And what infrastructure development projects have they really carried out with this very high debt?

The great majority of the nice roads and flyovers you are seeing them open in Lusaka were not built with money from debt. It’s a donation from the Indian government. The road works going on from Nakonde to Mpika are being carried out by the government of Tanzania. Even the nice road in the middle of Mpika was a donation sourced by Michael Sata from a Chinese company – it is not from the government’s borrowings.

We still have many very important roads that are in a very poor state – the road between Lusaka and the Copperbelt, Lusaka-Mongu road, Kaoma-Lukulu road, Mpika-Kasama road, etc.

So, what infrastructure are they talking about that has swallowed so much debt? There can be no magic or witchcraft about infrastructure development.

This cheap propaganda about infrastructure development is not going to take them anywhere. People move and are able to see things for themselves and come to their own conclusions. They are really deceiving themselves that people will buy into their cheap propaganda and vote for them next year. These irrational debt justifications won’t do.

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