THE Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants has called on the government to clear the current “turbulence” created by PF supporters who want Felix Mutati fired as finance minister.
ZICA president Jason Kazilimani said the current uncertainty over Mutati’s future was hurting the country’s economic stability and could negate recent signs of economic recovery.
Mutati is currently under pressure from PF supporters led by party secretary general Davies Mwila who want him to choose between being leader of a faction of the MMD or continue serving as finance minister.
President Lungu entered into a loose electoral alliance with Mutati to leverage MMD support in last year’s disputed presidential polls.
However, according to sources close to PF, President Lungu is sponsoring surrogates to hound Mutati out of Cabinet following rumours that he intended to stand as a presidential candidate in 2021.
Addressing the media in Lusaka today during the ZICA president’s quarterly brief on the state of the Zambian economy, Kazilimani said the body of accountants in the country was worried about the uncertainty regarding Mutati’s future as finance minister.
“As ZICA, our mandate does not allow us to comment upon internal issues of any political organization…but the Minister of Finance is a statutory position and he looks after the overall economy. Our view as ZICA is that it’s always best to have as much stability in the economic management of the country, particularly at the crucial stage where you are dealing with donors or financing partners such as the IMF [International Monetary Fund],”
“The likes of the IMF, the likes of other donors always like to prefer a climate of stability with as little turbulence as possible. So, right now the government is engaged in talks with the IMF; the budget is about to be presented…so our view as ZICA is that as less turbulence as possible, the better for the country. As far as ZICA is concerned, it’s always best that there is as little turbulence as possible concerning the economic management of the country especially in times when you are talking to the likes of the IMF; when you are preparing the budget; when you are talking to both internal and external stakeholders.”
He said the sustained calls were an “unnecessary detraction” to Mutati’s mandate to manage the economy.
“Any concerns about who oversees the country’s economic performance should be addressed so that there is no unnecessary detraction from the important mandate of overseeing the country’s economic management,” Kazilimani said. “…as to how the issue could be managed, I am not the competent person to talk about but I can say with certainty that the more stability we have in the economy, the better. There will always be blips once in a while, a bit of a spike, a bit of excitement but over the long term, you want to have as much stability as possible. So, it is a concern for the institute; the institute would like to see this turbulence to cleared as soon as possible by whichever powers that be that are required to clear this turbulence.”
And Kazilimani said there was need for the government to update the nation on the progress made to clinch an extended credit facility with the IMF believed to be around US $1.3 billion for three years.
He also urged the government to announce how many jobs had been created this year out of the 100,000 planned.
“We would appreciate an update on the progress made towards achieving the government’s target of 100,000 jobs as outlined in the 2017 national budget [or] what challenges have been faced in achieving the target,” he said. “The job creation challenges could hold answers hidden to help us tackle the ever present imperative of expanding the tax base and increasing government revenue.”
Kazilimani said despite a reduction in the country’s annual inflation rate, most people had experienced an increase in the cost of living and doing business as evidenced by increases in electricity tariffs and the introduction of road toll fees.
ZICA also urged the government to address public outrage concerning inflated cost of constructing roads in Zambia, with the latest disapproval being the US $1.2 billion President Edgar Lungu announced as the cost of laying the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage way.
“There appears to be a groundswell and as they say probably there is not smoke without fire. There is a feeling that the cost, per kilometre, of constructing a road in Zambia is much higher than in other countries and that is major concern which needs to be looked at,” said Kazilimani.