GOVT LOSING HOPE OVER IMF
…it’s been one year of deceit, says Kalaba
By Kombe Mataka
DEMOCRATIC Party president Harry Kalaba says fuel prices have continued to skyrocket because “UPND middlemen have taken over from PF middlemen”.
He argues that the government itself is now losing hope over an IMF bailout package.
“They told us that the IMF was going to give us the money in December last year, we never got the money. They told it will be in March, it never came. They told us it will be in June, it never came in June. We are now in July going into August. Mr Musokotwane (finance minister) was saying even if we don’t get the IMF, we have other alternatives. So why were you telling us from December that we will get the money?” he asked. “It has been a one year of deceit. It has been a one year of a government that has focused more on the rich than the poor. This is not our government. This is a government of the rich, for the rich and sustained by the rich. You can see that the measures that they are putting in place are not pro-poor. For how long are you going to blame external forces? The UPND were standing on an anthill saying these things PF is talking about of saying that there is external influence is just poor leadership. It is now their turn. The first time that they increased fuel, there was no war in Ukraine. The second time that they increased fuel, there was no war in Russia, third time, baumfwa insoni (they were ashamed). That is now when they started saying, no there is a war in Ukraine, Russia and because of that we have to increase the price of fuel. The truth is, they did not take due diligence in sealing financial spillages in the mines, and this is the problem of having a businessman par-excellence.”
Featuring on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme on Tuesday, Kalaba said it was surprising that the government still allowed middlemen in the fuel supply chain when it condemned the previous government for doing the same.
“Prices of essential commodities have been escalating every day. Imitengo balelunda (They are increasing prices). Things are not going down and we are being told by Her Honour the Vice-President Mutale Nalumango’s microeconomics that you have to increase to reduce,” he said. “They (prices) have just been increasing. They have just been increasing and it is not coming down. It has almost been a year Zambians have serious hardships. Cooking oil is up every day, saladi mulelunda chila bushiku (You are increasing cooking oil price everyday). Mealie meal has not come down, when we were told a bag of mealie meal will come down. We were promised that sugar will come down.”
Kalaba highlighted many other promises the UPND made regarding reducing commodity prices.
“We were promised that social commodities in our daily encounters will become much cheaper but that is not the case. In the last one year, we have seen a lot of talk. A lot of Zambians have been confined to perpetual poverty. Today there are very few people abalelya breakfast, abalelya lunch na supper (There are few people having breakfast, lunch and supper). Many people are failing to make it. They are failing to eat well because life has become hard. It is a tall order for people to live well today. They cannot plan,” Kalaba noted. “How can people plan when we have allowed the ERB (Energy Regulation Board) to be telling us the price of fuel every month? It shouldn’t work like that. We have proposed ourselves that it is high time that government begun looking for bulk reserves, and right now what we have is Indeni Refinery. Indeni Refinery must be capitalised. Then once we capitalise it then at least we can hold on to our fuel for at least three months so that even when we have external shocks we are able to hold on to products. And there will be no prices or price increments and that kind of staff. People at least will have a bit of stability.”
He said it was high time the government intervened in the matter of high fuel prices.
“How do you capitalise? Where is the money coming from? I see that there is a lot of money that government is spending, which money could have been put to proper usage. We have a lot of monies. I can give you an example, government decided to give the mines – the foreigners – tax holidays. Those monies from tax holidays could have helped us to recapitalise Indeni so that our fuel stability is enhanced,” Kalaba said. “This is an important activity that government must undertake. They should recapitalise and immediately ensure that they begin getting serious with ordinary Zambians. You can’t have a country where it is foreigners that are enjoying. And they were laughing at the PF before they were in government, that PF is using middlemen. Today we have their middlemen. We have UPND middlemen making 15 per cent profits as a result of them bringing in the fuel in this country.”
He charged that UPND could not remove fuel middlemen because they wanted their own to benefit.
“Now, from PF middlemen who were getting three per cent, now we have UPND middlemen who are getting 15 per cent. Is this the change in the last one year that Zambians proposed? The answer is a no. The real deal in the matter is to face the temerity of our actions. We must be brave and bald enough to face balyabene abasungu ba ma (those whites in the) mines because 12 per cent of our GDP in this country is coming from copper exports. And yet 80 per cent to 75 per cent of our exports is from the mines,” he explained. “Now, if we just allow the mines to continue moving the way they are moving and we give them holidays even before you audit them, there is a problem. This is why today they are even going to IMF to borrow US $1.4 billion, a country that is 58 years old. And that $1.4 billion is not money that will be given as cash. It will have to be dispensed within a three-year period. And we expect to get out of poverty?”
And Kalaba wondered why the government removed subsidies when the same was being done in the health sector.
He added that even doing business for Zambians locally was difficult, “let alone within the SADC and COMESA regions”.
“The banks in this country will ask you to bring 35 per cent interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kalaba said it was wrong for the local government ministry to remove booths and makeshift restaurants on Lusaka’s Great East Road ahead of the AU summit without sitting down with the traders.
“By the way, I am the one who bid for the summit in Equatorial Guinea, Malabo in 2014. Then there was acting president Wynter Kabimba, we had to call him because I led a delegation that side. President Sata was attending to medication in Israel. I led a delegation of honourable Bob Sichinga who was minister of commerce, Wylbur Simuusa who was minister of agriculture into Malabo and we called ba Wynter Kabimba and told him Zambia needs to host an event of this magnitude,” explained Kalaba. “The last time I think was 2000 when there was a transition from OAU to AU. The idea was that the same people with telephone booths or mobile money service operators should benefit in a period such as this one because you are going to have the whole Africa here.”