Zambian opposition challenges government to come clean on country’s debt

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Zambia’s opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), has challenged President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front party to come clean on Zambia’s debt, the Zambian Observer reported on Monday.

“There are serious doubts about the exact figure Zambia owes in debt because the Patriotic Front government has not included some of the projects done using borrowed resources,” said the UPND’s finance committee chairperson, Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane.

Musokotwane, who is also a former finance minister, said the Patriotic Front had not told the public about the amount involved in financing the Kafue Gorge lower hydropower project, which had involved a Chinese company in 2015 and been funded by money allocated for external debt.

He also said the amount for the proposed Serenje to Chipata via Petauke railway line, including the amount for the Lusaka – Ndola dual carriage way, in addition to other significant debts had not been included in government foreign debt figures, adding that if tallied they would come to $17 billion.

“Come clean on this issue and explain why amounts spent on projects announced such as the establishment of Zambia Airways were not included in the debt mentioned,” said Musokotwane.

The former finance minister appealed to Zambians to pay attention to the “wreckless borrowing by the Patriotic Front because it has led the country into heavy debt and this has a serious effect on the lives of many Zambians”.

He appealed to Zambians to take the issue of debt seriously because all revenue collected would go towards servicing of debt instead of building schools, more health centres, universities or even increasing civil servants salaries.

In October last year Finance Minister Felix Mutati said the 2018 budget envisages a decline in the fiscal deficit from the projected 7.3% of GDP in 2017, to 6.1% of GDP in 2018.