Friday, November 12, 2010

Govt doesn’t seem to appreciate our aid - Dutch envoy

Govt doesn’t seem to appreciate our aid - Dutch envoy
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Fri 12 Nov. 2010, 04:00 CAT

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda’s regime doesn’t seem to be too appreciative of donor aid at times, Netherlands Embassy head of mission Ardis Stois-Braken has observed.

Making a contribution during a Citibank-sponsored discussion on the current copper boom and its trickle-down effects on the Zambian economy on Wednesday, Stois-Braken also wondered how ready Zambia was to wean itself from donor support.

Stois-Braken observed that aid from Western donors to Africa had become scarce owing to the recent global economic which weakened liquidity in Western countries.

“Indeed in Europe and the US, aid flows are under pressure. At the same time here in Zambia, at times, the government doesn’t seem to be too appreciative of our aid… the headlines in the newspapers encouraging donors to pack their bags,” said Stois-Braken.

“However, there still seems to be a place for donors for the government to use the money made available…where would you see the most strategic value for donors to put the money and…Zambia is talking about Zambia beyond aid. Would there be a major impact on the outlook of Zambia if donors decided to withdraw sooner than later?”

Last August, President Banda launched scathing attacks on the donors and Zambians demanding an appeal against High Court judge Evans Hamaundu’s decision to throw out the application by the state to register the London judgment against Frederick Chiluba.

President Banda wondered why people could not accept judge Hamaundu’s judgment when the government easily accepted cases that went against it.

“This is not a banana republic. It doesn’t belong to anybody. If somebody is fed up with us, let them just pack their bags and go where they came from. We are an independent state and I think that they should give us the chance to follow the laws which they left behind here,” President Banda said.

“To say we are not fighting against corruption, of course you know we are fighting against corruption. There are a lot of people who are in courts…many of our generals, we have never interfered with that, so why this one case becomes a major issue? And also they know we have an election next year, so they are sticking their noses in our business to try and influence the elections.”

And Citibank Africa director for economic and market analysis, David Cowan advised that African countries like Zambia still need donor support. Cowan, however, said African countries like Zambia still faced a huge challenge of how to prudently manage donor inflows.

“If somebody is offering free cheap money, why turn it down? I would take it. The question is how you spend that money…and of the problems that have hit Africa in terms of its thinking is in the 80s and 1990s, there were all these programmes driven by donor agenda about privatisation in Africa,” Cowan said.

“All I think is that we have hit a brick wall in privatisation in Africa. It’s quite hard to privatise sewerage, water provision industry.”

He noted that while it was okay to privatise water provision in Europe, the argument in Africa was that the operator cannot generate a high rate of return.

He said donors could help with key programmes like public sector reform programme to make it more efficient.

“What we need is to re-invent the parastatals and donors can provide a lot of interest in trying to re-invent the parastatals to become efficient service providers in what I call social infrastructure,” he said.

“Donors can do a lot in a way because they have the skills. Donor history has a long troubled relationship in Africa ‘if somebody is offering you money just like the Chinese are offering you money, Brazil is offering you money. We want that money, how can we use it to our advantage? I certainly would not get rid of the donors anytime soon. If you borrow, know how you are borrowing and why you are borrowing.”

Cowan predicted a Chinese debt crisis as Africa’s debt from China is expected to hit US $300 billion in the next five years.

“Most African countries are borrowing a lot of money from China and it won’t be surprising in the next 10 years if we find that we have a new China debt crisis, China ending up writing off billions of Africa’s debt,” said Cowan.

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