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Political Aspirants in Zambia Need to Address Debt Crisis in Campaigns: Jesuit Scholars

An image showing vote casting in Zambia. Credit: Courtesy Photo

As campaigns for the August 12 general election kickoff in Zambia, political aspirants in the Southern African nation have been called upon to inform the electorate on how they will address the country’s debt crisis should they be elected.

In their Monday, May 17 statement obtained by ACI Africa, officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) call on “all the aspiring candidates to seize the opportunity offered by the campaign period to address the Zambian voters on how each political party is going to address the debt crisis and the resultant challenges the country is facing.” 

Zambia has an estimated US$20.46 billion public debt comprising both external and domestic dues.

“Aspiring political leaders must articulate economic growth programs that respond to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable and how as leaders they are going to contribute to the common good and the preservation of human dignity of every Zambian,” JCTR officials add in their statement signed by the Jesuit institution’s Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe.

Officials of the research institution further urge political aspirants to “clearly demonstrate how they are going to address this debt crisis to ensure improved social service provision throughout the country.”

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Instead of “promising paradise to the electorates”, JCTR officials say, the political aspirants in Zambia “must provide a convincing road map on the way forward regarding the current debt and explain how they are going to manage future debt contractions to ensure that the nation will never be caught up again in another debt crisis in the future.”

In November last year, Zambia’s external creditors denied the government’s appeal to suspend the repayment of Eurobonds interest payments until April 2021.  

Following the decision by the external creditors, JCTR officials called on local, national, regional and international stakeholders “to join hands and to show solidarity in advancing the noble cause to persuade Zambia’s creditors to consider any form of debt relief for the Zambian people.”

“Zambia needs some space to address its indebtedness in a manner that will not harm the dignity of the lives of the millions of the Zambian people,” the Jesuit scholars said in their November 15 statement. 

Officials of JCTR also called on Zambians to “demand accountability and involvement in coming up with a roadmap of how our country is going to pull itself out of this undesired and dangerous debt crisis that has a potential of being a liability to be passed on to future generations.”

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In their May 17 message, officials of the research institute urge the Zambian electorate “not to be hoodwinked, but to analyze and interrogate the campaign messages to determine their practicability and viability.”

“JCTR urges the Zambian voters to critically analyze if what aspiring candidates are promising in terms of development, economic growth and job creation is realistic given the country’s current fiscal and debt challenges,” officials of the Jesuit Institute say.

The leadership of JCTR also appeals to media personnel in the country “to play a vital role of informing and educating the public on various key issues including Zambia’s public debt to enhance the electorate’s capacity to challenge aspiring presidential candidates to explain how they will manage the country’s debt crisis if elected, or if re-elected on 12th August.”

“The media is very critical in building the electorate’s capacity to cast their vote based on issues and from an informed perspective,” JCTR officials say, and add, “This is key to allowing democracy in our country come of age.”