IMF money like panadol for a patient on oxygen – Nawakwi
By Kombe Chimpinde Mataka
FDD leader says the IMF will fail because it was not designed to deal with the country’s structural problems but to benefit business interests in the private sector.
Commenting on the approved US $1.3 billion IMF-supported programme, Nawakwi told The Mast that this was not the first time the country had gone for an IMF programme.
“This programme will fail on its face. This was designed to temporarily alleviate the expectations of the private sector and you have seen what has happened. The West, the IMF and others convinced our government to cancel all approved loans with China. Zambia is a battleground between America and China and somehow, they have convinced this government. It has very little foresight to turn their back on China. A total of US $3 billion approved in projects has been shelved cancelled, never to be revived,” Nawakwi said. “In its place we have a so-called US $1.3 billion to be given to the Central Bank in droplets over a three-year period. Any leader who is calling themselves a mathematician and economist, would have sat down with the Chinese and renegotiate the interest rates for the approved loans because in constructing the dam in Masaiti, you are creating employment. In continuing to work on Kafue Gorge [power station], you are creating a stream of income and your people are employed. This money from IMF is like Panadol for a patient who is on oxygen. It will not reduce our indebtedness. Instead, it will shrink our income.”
She said the government was not being truthful about the IMF package.
“Everyone is running around like headless chickens. Yes, we have an IMF package. No one is telling the nation that the export base will be shrunk,” Nawakwi said. “What is the price of fertiliser this year? It’s 1,800 per K50 bag. Has that reduced? What are the alternative policy instruments in place to address the endemic structural problems that we face in the whole continent. The structural problem that we have is our people are extremely poor and the question is how do we get them out of poverty. Is the question in the IMF programme or out of the IMF programme? Because not only in Zambia but the continent, the world over, where can any sane leader point and say in that country, there was an IMF programme and they were moved out of poverty!”
Nawakwi said a reduced inflation and exchange rate was not enough achievement for the country.
“All I hear is exchange rate, inflation. They are celebrating US $1.3 billion. We had $7 billion written off. This is not the first IMF programme in this country,” she recalled.
“The question is have we gotten rid of the structural problems, lack of good roads, schools, how the country can earn money from its own resources…where the foreigners have strangled us by digging our resources? Is (President) Hakainde Hichilema telling me that this country is incapable of earning US $400 million per year from the emeralds sector, from the copper sector, from the agricultural and fisheries and tourism sectors? Are you telling me that we are such dull people that we cannot put our heads together and earn just US $400 million per annum? No. Someone’s brain is frozen. And this problem will continue in the next 15 years at this rate.”
Nawakwi said the IMF deal was meant to pay for interest on loans and not for investment into the economy.
“What is happening is like you owe the bank money and you are behind in settling the interests so the bank gives you a relief by saying we are going to restructure your money. They are not doing anything. Maybe reducing the interest but the principle has to be paid. You would have approached China and said ‘we are a new government can we discuss new terms for the laons that we borrowed’,” Nawakwi said. “There are other smart solutions on the table which will be long lasting. These mines are raising more than US $10, 20 billion per annum and someone cancels the royalties and goes to IMF. That is outright rubbish. Sorry for the language. Who is the largest creditor to Zambia? It is China. Instead of going to see Joe Biden, who should have been rung to go and see Xi Jinping… You can’t say I had a very good phone call with Xi Jinping, no. You have cancelled infrastructure loans to get money to clear interest. Does that get a job for me and you? It is shocking. Then they tell you you are not going to subsidise agriculture. There are one million ‘don’t do this’. The whole world was saying we are going capitalist. Now we have proved, capitalist policies don’t work for Africa. Even in the West. In America they are using social packages to support their people. The world is abandoning capitalist theories.”
And Nawakwi warned that the continued arrest of political opponents would jeopardise the economic reform programme.
“And the way they are dealing with governance issues, arresting people without trial, God willing you will come and call me if I am still alive and say you said it. Didn’t they suspend the [IMF] programme in 1996-1997 not on economic issues but one barring late president [Kenneth] Kaunda from standing to incarceration of late Dean Mungomba? Were those economic issues? And for two years the programme was on suspension. It took me to go and plead with them with hon [Vincent] Malambo. I had to ask ambassador Carson and Susan Rice, to say ‘you in Angola you supported [Jonas] Savimbi, who did you support in the Congo?’ I had to take them on at the State Department. You have to be a smart negotiator and there are none in this group,” she said. “For me the gist of all this mayhem is to facilitate business for the private sector in which the President is a major player. It is for the good of private business in which our President has not declared interest. Most of his business partners are from the West and they were starting to lose money because Zambia is not paying.”
Nawakwi said although the UPND was celebrating the favourable exchange rate, they did not support wealth creation among Zambians.
“This IMF is a nightmare for Zambia. He is celebrating the exchange rate but who has a dollar to exchange? He is arresting everyone with a dollar. He is anti-creation for Zambians. You have the owner of Ndozo Lodge, he is Namwanga. Those were the first Zambians to start importing containers from Dubai for spare parts. How can any foolish man go to interview him for four million (dollars)? Those were the first Zambians to import palm oil from Taiwan and Vietnam. So you find him with four million and because he knows [former president Edgar] Lungu from Chawama you say he is a criminal. How can someone be that naïve? And Mr [Chrint] Sichamba is on a death bed. He had a serious stroke two years ago. These are long time young businessmen from my Nakonde place,” said Nawakwi.