THE hysteria that accompanied Government decision to increase the debt ceiling was most unbecoming and depressing. Instead of nuanced and logical arguments the nation was treated to un- informed and often misleading tirade of emotional debate.
No effort was made to contextualise the debate in relation to global borrowing ratios and realities of Governance.
An impression was created that Government was irresponsible and operating outside accepted limits of acceptable debt contraction limits by increasing the debt contraction from K35 billion to K60 billion.
This was far from the truth.
The reality is that Zambia is far from the highly indebted league which includes such countries as Iceland, Eritrea, Portugal, Caribbean, Jamaica, Greece which have borrowed beyond their GDP. Zambia, by all international standards has not reached a level of unsustainable debt.
At the moment, Zambia’s external debt stands at US$4.8 billion which represents 18.5 percent of the GDP while the local debt stands at US$3.7 billion, representing 14.2 percent of the GDP.
Collectively, the public debts stands at 32.7 perent of the GDP, far below the internationally accepted threshold of 40 percent.
But the opposition members of Parliament categorically refused to support the motion and in fact voted against it after a division was called.
Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda only received the power to issue a Statutory Instrument from 74 members of Parliament who supported the motion while 41 were totally against.
Some members of Parliament were even suggesting that Mr Chikwanda first look at cost cutting measures to sort out the budget deficit.
Others said they could not give their support to the motion because of alleged misplaced expenditure on the part of Government officials.
But what the members of Parliament opposed to Government’s proposal of increasing the external debt did not exercise their mind to is the reason the Patriotic Front wants to borrow.
According to Mr Chikwanda, the Government wants to borrow to complete projects it has embarked in the last three years.
Those who have been following the Patriotic Front development agenda have seen the construction and reconstruction of both urban and rural parts of Zambia.
But the resource envelope on the part of Government has been inadequate to ensure that the projects are completed on time.
It is wrong for anyone to suggest that Government should have halted the construction of roads and other infrasture as a way of saving costs.
Everybody knows that in Construction, debts accrue interest as long as the projects remain uncompleted and this would have been a minus on the part of Government.
But with this approval and once the projects are funded, Government will create jobs in the construction sector and the contractors will not be demanding interest for completing the work on time.
It should also be noted that Government’s decision to borrow externally will help stimulate the capital market as local will have to find other means of creating revenue than waiting for the treasury bills.
It is very important that our law makers research and understand topics on the floor before contributing in an emotional and partisan manner. Failure by Government to borrow would have wrought horrendous consequences to the economy. This would have meant an escalation of interest on incomplete projects while at the same time instigating a very severe deceleration of infrastructure development that would have been keenly felt by ordinary Zambians.
Evidently opposition members used this debate to score political points than to make constructive efforts at ameliorating the country finds itself in as a result of the collapsing copper prices.
This is very unfortunate because it erodes from the credibility of the opposition ability to interpret facts of the day.
Zambians want an informed, educated and credible opposition.
given the courage and leadership that Zambia has shown in dealing with the child marriage problem,” he said.
Dr Chiviya congratulated countries in the SADC region that had begun the process of enacting laws to combating child marriages.