international monetary fund

By Casper the Friendly Ghost

I have written about the IMF a few times now and one response to an article I wrote caught my eye.

The commentator called me Casper the “Corrupt Ghost”. Although I did not agree with the points in the commentator’s rebuttal, I was impressed by the very creative label.

It told me that people are reading and paying attention to the issues.

For example, I suspect the commentator that called me the “Corrupt Ghost” possibly saw me as a corrupt stooge of the IMF who is willing to sell out my country for cheap. Here are a few quick facts, just so it is clear where I stand:

Firstly, the Zambian economy is in bad share and needs external relief.

For external relief, the IMF and other donors are much better because even though they come with conditionalities, their money – at zero interest rates – is much cheaper than non-concessional borrowing from international financial markets at 8-10% US dollar-terms interest rates. So we absolutely need the IMF’s US$1.3 billion grant!

Secondly, Zambia is still at significant risk of wasting the external resources once we get them.

We have seen the wasteful and selfish spending on trips abroad, on hiring Ministers to occupy new ministries, on the continuous and mindless building of roads with low economic returns and so on.

Some experts like ZIPAR say the Government has put in some key cornerstones for fiscal management (such as the Single Treasury Window and the Integrated Financial Management Information System), but these things have been on the table for a very long time and are yet to protect Zambia from financial misappropriation and indiscipline.

We need more reliable and binding fiscal rules and laws that hold the Minister of Finance and his counterparts in the line ministries to account for fiscal mismanagement.

Finally, we need to keep talking to each other, but speaking to the issues! Much as I actually really like the catchy label of Casper the “Corrupt Ghost” (because of the very cleaver unique selling point it offers for “brand Casper”), I feel that in general, name calling will not help us to build each other up and to rebuild our great country.

Leave the name calling to the politicians. Let us debate passionately and convince each other on the issues. Then we shall build a nation!

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