Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Govt shouldn't borrow to finance abuses - Mwale
By Stuart Lisulo
Mon 11 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

CHIPANGALI MMD member of parliament Vincent Mwale says continued government borrowing risks sliding the country back to high indebtedness.

Last week, finance deputy minister Keith Mukata told parliament that the country's external debt level had risen from US$1.7 billion in September 2011 to US$3.2 billion by September 2013.

Mukata said to avoid plunging the country into more speculative debt, the ministry had been conducting a Debt Sustainability Analysis on an annual basis in line with the debt management strategy, to determine Zambia's debt carrying capacity and fiscal space for new borrowing.
But Mwale, in an interview, said it would be very difficult for the country to keep borrowing at the current rate.

At the rate we are going it will be very difficult to have the fiscal space to borrow more money; we hear Zambia has been downgraded - the credit rating has gone down and it means the money we have to borrow now has to be at higher rates, Mwale said.

He questioned why the government needed to continue borrowing when there were still a lot of unaccounted for funds.

We have not been prudent. When you look at the Auditor General's report, there's a lot of unaccounted for funds, a lot of abused public funds. Why then not secure the little money that we have? Why not protect the money that we have? Because if we do, sometimes we may discover we don't have to go out and borrow, it is not necessary. Why should we borrow to finance abuses? It is not appropriate for us to go out and borrow internally and externally even before we take care of the resources that we have, said Mwale, who is also chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

He said it was important that all funds parliament approves for the Executive to use are protected if government borrowing is to be justified.

If we do that and we know that there is something that is lacking, people will understand if we said we want to borrow. Right now the President was commissioning the foundation stone at the airport; that is not going to be financed by our budget. I'm sure we are borrowing so that actually tells us that the debt stock has gone up, Mwale said.

He said the national budget under the PF government has "almost doubled" as compared to the MMD's last national budget, which meant that there were actually more provisions for government expenditure.

There is so much money at the disposal of the current government. The budget has grown, there's more they can do than what the previous government had, so why then do we want to go beyond that and even try to get more money from outside? If they cannot use this money that we have properly, it would be very difficult to justify why they should go out and borrow. And also the morality side of it, the people that will pay back are our children; the question they will be asking us is, 'why did you have to borrow and leave us with this debt and yet you had the money that was wasted?' It is not morally right to do that, he said.

Meanwhile, Mwale said he hoped the motion he moved last month would bring amendments to the current legislation that relates to borrowing to enable parliament have more powers to restrict government borrowing and introduce a 'debt ceiling.'

It is not just about us scrutinising them Executive but also it is in their interests that they quickly come in and bring in the necessary amendments because people will not see them as a party, we will be borrowing collectively as a country, said Mwale.

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