FORMER Vice-President Dr Guy Scott says President Edgar Lungu’s press conference was meant to give the international community a false impression that he was making serious efforts to fix the falling economy.
And Dr Scott says President Lungu’s efforts to make the kwacha gain artificially by pumping more dollars on the market is only making whisky cheap.
In an interview yesterday, Dr Scott, who acted as Republican President during the transition period following Michael Sata’s death, said President Lungu was trying to subsidise the dollar to give a false impression to the voters that the kwacha was gaining value.
“There is a danger that it all ends up as just trying to impress the IMF; President Lungu could have been saying all that because the IMF wants you to behave responsively. But the IMF is not insisting that you subsidise all dollars, if anything, they are going the opposite direction,” Dr Scott said.
“The trouble with this kind of thing is trying to symbolically show seriousness without actually sticking to it and doing it. The difficulty is to evaluate these things.”
He said there was even more danger trying to appease the electorate at the expense of the country’s future economic wellbeing.
“It is very dangerous that when you are approaching elections, the temptation is to artificially strengthen the kwacha so that it can look like things are alright. When you win the elections, you turn round and there is nothing left. It is all gone and now you start saying, ‘Can we borrow money’,” Dr Scott said.
“If you just try to subsidise the dollar, which is what you are doing when you are throwing money into the money markets like we are doing for the dollar to become cheap, the problem is you are subsidising all dollars, even dollars which are for whisky are subsidised. Even dollars which are for motor cars are subsidised.”
He said President Lungu should have used the money for subsidising the dollar to subsidise mealie-meal because very few people drink whisky.
“So is that what you are intending to do? Or are you selectively saying that we will subsidise mealie-meal because it is important for the poor people, or secondary education, that would be a more normal approach to life because the only people drinking whisky is just Edgar and me and a few other people. So why shouldn’t we pay for the full value of that dollar?” Dr Scott wondered.
And Dr Scott said the current economic challenges were exacerbating the inequality that exists between the rich and the poor.
He said the rich were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer.
“Zambia is a very unequal country and gets more unequal. The rich get richer. The talk that you can’t have eight cylinder vehicles and so forth in this country is all nonsense. Look at all the vehicles I have parked at the back there! One is from Parliament. One is from my job as Vice-President, big engines. We just talk nonsense. We are giving up big engines and start distributing ‘oh Vice-President, here you are. Here is a VX when you are bored of your VX, you can get a new BMW’,” Dr Scott said.
“The majority of our people are grappling with disease, education problems, and all that. In Zambia, you have got part of us who are living off the fat of the land, the rest have got no jobs, and even when you send them a bag of fertiliser, hoping they can buy it cheap on credit, it’s stolen by the local big wigs and the head teachers of schools.”
He said the slow growth of the economy was not helping matters.
“The fact is there are economic hardships. We are busy having children in this country growing about three per cent every year and our basic health is not growing at three per cent a year. And I think we are nearly at the most extreme limits,” said Dr Scott.