By Mike Riley
BRITISH High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet says high expenditure by the Zambian government must not be allowed to continue because the country has been spending more than it can afford.
And EU head of delegation to Zambia Ambassador Alessandro Mariani says 2017 is very promising for the country as new projects are due to come on stream in the new year.
Speaking during an EU-Zambia Partnership media breakfast in Lusaka yesterday, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said the current trajectory of high fiscal deficits and mounting public debt could not be allowed to continue.
According to ZIPAR, Zambia’s external debt increased by 6.3 per cent from US$6.3 billion as at August 2015 to about US$6.7 billion as at September 2016.
“Zambia’s need for economic reform is pressing. It is sad that debt servicing has returned to become a major feature of government expenditure. Subsidies, public sector costs, along with debt servicing, dominate. This cannot continue indefinitely. Expenditure must be reduced and revenue increased. This process will not be easy for the government – or painless for ordinary Zambians,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet told stakeholders at Lusaka’s Taj Pamodzi Hotel.
“For some time, Zambia has been running a fiscal deficit; in layman’s terms – Zambia has been spending more than it can afford. The clearance of external debt that occurred under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) over a decade ago, has been obliterated by the accumulation of new debt, including three Eurobonds.”
He added that while the EU welcomed the Zambian government’s steps to address the country’s serious economic problems through the “Zambia Plus” approach, he appealed to the government for continued positive engagement to ensure effective implementation of the cooperating partners’ financial and technical assistance.
“For cooperating partners to support Zambia, we require positive engagement from the government as well as other Zambian partner organisations, including those among civil society. It is important that we have access to ministers, permanent secretaries and other senior officials to ensure our assistance is aligned with government policy. Occasionally, it is extremely useful to meet with HE the President himself [Edgar Lungu],” said High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet, who also stressed that part of the EU member states’ assistance was directly relevant to the government’s economic reform programme as outlined through the five pillars in the 2017 national budget.
Earlier, Ambassador Mariani told stakeholders that 2017 was set to be “a very promising year” with new projects quickly reaching an advanced stage.
The end-of-year joint briefing highlighted, among others, a comprehensive review of the EU’s project assistance during 2016 in various sectors such as the 40 million euros signed for renewable energies on November 28, and a 2017 outlook.