Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) SARPN thematic photo
Country analysis > Zambia Last update: 2020-11-27  

 Related documents

Zambia Think Tank Forum


Peter Henriot (JCTR)

As published in the Mining Mirror, June 2002

  1. Is it clear that Zambia cannot have a pro-poor budget, Zambia cannot attain sustainable human development, and Zambia will remain a heavily indebted poor country, unless we have full debt cancellation? Jubilee-Zambia makes that point on economic, political and ethical grounds.

  2. But we are very aware that many people do not support debt cancellation for Zambia. From the North, we have heard again and again the objection that debt cancellation does not assure pro-poor development, but it may simply mean pro-rich corruption! Money wasted on frivolous expenses such as importation of Mercedes Benz for high government officials, money diverted into political campaigns for ruling parties, money spent on military arms and not on medicine and books.

  3. But forget about this objection raised by people from the North to debt cancellation. For Jubilee-Zambia, the more serious objection comes from Zambians, ordinary citizens who do not support debt cancellation because of two strong reasons: first, they do not trust the government to use for poverty eradication any resources freed up because of debt relief; second, they feel that Zambia can indeed pay back its debts if it puts its resources to the right priorities. Let me deal with both objections.

  4. First, Zambians do not trust the government. In a public opinion poll taken by Jubilee-Zambia in early 2000, the majority (70.5%) of the respondents felt that the government and the rich people would benefit the most from debt relief. Only 29% of the people interviewed thought that the poor people would benefit the most. The majority (52%) of women interviewed felt that the government would benefit the most. Why this lack of trust? Well, let’s not listen to opposition politicians but to government sources: Auditor General’s reports on ICASA, Defense spending, ZESCO Anti-Corruption Commission’s statements on level of corruption in the country. Tribunal dispositions on diversion of K2 billion. Minister of Agriculture’s recent declaration on fraudulent abuse of Meridian Bank. US \ $ 100 million missing from ZNOC, reported last week to the IMF by the government.

  5. Again, these are official government statements, not politically-motivated statements from the opposition! Is it any wonder, then, that many Zambians do not have full trust in governments handling of additional funds being made available through debt cancellation? Moreover, we have already heard many questions about the actual disposition of HIPC funds.

  6. Second, some Zambians, often those from the business community, question the wisdom of canceling debts. Should we not commit ourselves to the hard work and effective planning necessary to move forward ourselves, without appealing to the mercy of creditors?

  7. I believe that both of these objections are legitimate and must be directly answered if Jubilee-Zambia is going to gain support for our campaign for debt cancellation. That is why we have been calling for a transparent and accountable way of handling debt relief, and a responsible and effective way of contracting any new debt. Is such an approach politically possible? Yes, it is! Some of you may have seen the one hour television show on ZNBC last Saturday evening, that presented the Uganda case, the example of how one HIPC country in Africa has put in place institutions to guarantee that debt relief really does go to the poor and that no new debt relief is irresponsibly contracted. We at Jubilee-Zambia are committed to seeing that similar institutions are put in place in Zambia.

  8. The hand-out page describes the structure of the “Debt Mechanism” we propose – a tri-partite committee made up of representatives from civil society, Members of Parliament, and officials from relevant government ministries. This Debt Fund Managing Committee would oversee a Debt Relief Social Fund, from reduced debt servicing would go, to be made available for pro-poor programmes of government line ministries and NGOs eradication programmes. We have laid this proposal before government officials, Members of Parliament, the local offices of the IMF and World Bank, other international agencies and creditor countries. Reaction has been mixed; with many respondents tending to feel that there is sufficient accountability and transparency in the Budget process and hence no need to add on additional institutional guarantees.

  9. We disagree with that sentiment, on the clear basis of the government’s record. And so we again affirm very strongly our call to the President of the Republic of Zambia, the Minister of Finance and National Planning, and Members of Parliament to exercise true leadership and move to set up this Debt Mechanism immediately. A nation-wide petition campaign is being launched here this evening – please sign up and take the petitions to get from your families, friends and workmates. Jubilee-Zambia will keep you informed.

  10. But in order to assure that no new debts are assumed without full transparent and accountable procedures, we also call upon the incoming Parliament to immediately enact the necessary legislation to make very clear that no new loans can be contracted by the government without the explicit review, evaluation and approval of Parliament. Today, the Minister of Finance can bind the citizens of Zambia to further debt, can increase the already unsustainable burden that affects especially the 80% majority poor in the country, without any consultation with the elected representatives of the people. This anomalous and dangerous situation must be changed immediately! We urge this audience to contact their representatives in Parliament to address this issue forthrightly, and we promise that Jubilee-Zambia will push for this necessary legal change.

  11. For those Zambians who argue that Zambia should pay its debts and not seek cancellation, our response is two-fold: most of our debt is odious and unethical (much of it contracted as part of the anti-Apartheid struggle), and debt cancellation is a necessary, if not sufficient, step towards sustainable development on our own terms.

  12. In conclusion, let me say that what Jubilee-Zambia is arguing for here is a set of “conditionalities from above” - proposed indeed imposed, by the IMF, World Bank, creditor countries: meet SAP targets, liberalise trade, demand cost sharing in education, privatize the mines, sell off ZESCO, sell off ZANACO, etc., etc. But we stand for only one set of conditionalities – those enforced by Zambians through the political process here. We support full accountability and transparency in the handling of the debt question.

  13. And so I repeat the thesis offered here: debt cancellation demands transparency and accountability!

Octoplus Information Solutions Top of page | Home | Contact SARPN | Disclaimer