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Zambian leader shows determination to fix economy

President Hakainde Hichilema is determined to run the country’s economic fortunes around. File Photo

Lusaka, Zambia | Xinhua | Newly-elected Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has vowed to fix the economy with the appointment of a new finance minister, the only minister appointed so far.

The Zambian leader on Aug. 27 appointed Situmbeko Musokotwane as the country’s new finance minister, with a call for him to turn the economy around. Hichilema, who emerged winner of the Aug. 12 polls, had campaigned on the promise of fixing the economy, as one of his campaign messages.

Musokotwane, who previously served in the same portfolio from 2008 to 2011, also served as central bank governor as well as special assistant to the president for economic affairs in late President Levy Mwanawasa’s government. He also acted as an alternate governor at the International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and the World Bank.

The country’s economy slipped into recession last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The new finance minister has since been tasked with nine pressing issues as key performance indicators upon which he will be assessed.

Among the indicators include dismantling public debt, enforcing fiscal discipline, driving decentralization and stopping financial leakage.

Others are to produce a progressive budget, engage creditors transparently, foster economic development and come up with fair taxes.

“You can assess your finance minister using these key performance indicators. The road will be rough but we are confident that he will receive the necessary support from all Zambians as this will not be business as usual,” the Zambian leader said.

The Zambian leader is aware that people expect nothing less than delivering financial prudence and channeling resources to key areas as well as fixing the debt situation.

Musokotwane said during a press briefing after his appointment last week that the government plans to more than double copper production as well as strike a financing deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of efforts to stimulate economic growth.

According to him, improving copper production will have spiral effects in other sectors of the economy, resulting in job creation especially for the youth.

He told reporters that an economic program with the IMF will be key to restoring the country’s credibility and help convince creditors to extend payment terms.

The government, he said, will embark on an aggressive reform program to rebuild the economy which he said is under stress. Among key focus of the reform program include improving revenue collection, prudent utilization of public resources, reduction on unnecessary travels abroad and huge entourages, and restore investor confidence.

The appointment of the acclaimed economist has since elated investors as well as the business community who feel that Hichilema is determined to run the country’s economic fortunes around.

The Economic Association of Zambia believes that his appointment is a step in the right direction because of his vast experience. Austin Mwange, the association’s leader says the government needs to be given more time to implement its policies.

Felix Mutati, a former finance minister, congratulated the new finance minister and expressed optimism that the economy was in safe hands.

The change of government has seen Kwacha, the local currency, appreciating significantly, but Zambians, who were reeling under the economic malaise, expect much more.

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Xinhua

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