By Kellys Kaunda

Like many other modern nations, Zambia’s economic diplomacy is dominated by the usual suspects – the IMF, the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, the G20, to mention the most prominent. Each of these interact with us on and in various issues (directly and indirectly) that include debt, financial and development matters.

The extent to which we deal with these institutions depends largely on the domestic policies we pursue. How much each of them gets involved in our national affairs depends on the results of the policies we have pursued. If we want to limit the extent of their involvement in our domestic policies, we need to address the factors that make their involvement necessary in the first place.

For instance, if we do not want the IMF to get involved in our domestic affairs, we need to address those policies we adopt that make necessary their invitation into our domestic policy space in the first place. It is possible. After all, the IMF, like a fire brigade, is normally called in to help put out fires started by domestic policy makers. Whether a house catches fire or not largely depends on members of the household.

It is basically the desire to improve the quality of life that nations borrow and unfortunately get into financial trouble often. Sometimes this is so because anticipated revenue from known sources do not materialize thus failing to meet debt obligations; sometimes a nation’s leadership does not really know how much they ought to be borrowing; sometimes the normal human conflict over what policy works and what does not work results in pursuing policies that lead nations into debt traps; sometimes decision makers are dominated by corrupt elements that pursue deals that land nations in debt; etc.

To embark on debt sustainability or a semblance of it, Zambia must engage the political economy of debt starting by teasing out every detail that constitutes its structure. In the spirit of transparency and democracy, share with the public and allow the marketplace of ideas to flow with perspectives that must be systematically interrogated for their potential contribution to a homegrown debt solution.

It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Finance has shared with the public the projects that will be continued; those that shall be restricted and funded differently and that shall be cancelled and why. Beyond this, let’s begin to share how Zambia may avoid unsustainable debt going forward.

This broader policy approach is intended to tap beyond official government economic tzars into the knowledge, experience and expertise that is scattered within the Zambian population. If the current leadership is really committed to a sustainable solution, one that will survive them, let them pursue a non-partisan approach and listen to all and sundry.

Solutions to Zambia’s challenges lie within the Zambians themselves.


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