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Catholic Priest in Zambia Urges Government to Engage Citizens in Economic Reforms

Logo of the International monetary Fund (IMF). Credit: IMF

A Catholic Priest in Zambia is calling on the country’s political leadership to engage citizens in the process of reforming the economy, especially in the government’s engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, December 1, the Unit head of Caritas Zambia, Fr. Gabriel Mapulanga, said engaging citizens is important considering that, he said, many Zambians do not trust the international financial institution. 

The Zambian government is currently engaging the IMF in hopes of agreeing on a package to restore the country’s macroeconomic, fiscal and debt stability. 

"It is important that the government explains to the people the economic situation and to help them understand the role of the IMF," Fr. Mapulanga said. 

He added that while many people find economic matters boring and difficult, the issues "should be explained."

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Fr. Mapulanga explained that Zambians mistrusted the IMF when the country faced economic crisis in the early 2000s after the institution advised the then President, Frederick Chiluba, to privatize national assets.  

In the December 1 interview, the member of the Clergy of Zambia’s Ndola Diocese said the IMF has since "changed" and it can be of help to the Southern African country amid current economic challenges. 

The Catholic Priest, however, advised the government not to let the IMF “own this process” of restructuring Zambia’s economy. 

"We need a certain restructuring of the economy that does not put the people in trouble again as is the current situation. We want the government to be responsible, and to own this process, not to let the IMF own this process of restructuring," Fr. Mapulanga said. 

He emphasized that the economic restructuring process "should not look like it is the IMF telling us what to do."

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"We should come with our own program, and inform the IMF what we want. This way, we can go on well with restructuring our economy," the Caritas Zambia official said. 

Zambia defaulted on 12.7-billion-euro foreign debt. 

On November 4, IMF spokesman, Gerry Rice, said Zambia's debt is unsustainable. 

Mr. Rice added that the international financial institution would need "sufficient funding assurances from creditors before an agreement on an extended credit facility could be made."

He also said that the conversation on the aid package to bail the Southern African country from the debt owed its creditors has no time limit. 

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In the interview with ACI Africa, the Zambian Catholic Priest confirmed the majority of his compatriots are struggling economically. 

"Majority of Zambians are struggling to make ends meet. We are concerned as Caritas to see these people suffering. Some are small farmers and they eat what they produce. Sometimes it is difficult for them to produce enough as they really do not have input, maybe small pieces of land and growing food that will feed them for a whole year is difficult," Fr. Mapulanga said. 

To salvage the situation of the small-scale farmers, he highlighted the role Caritas Zambia plays in the Southern African nation through livelihood programs.

"We go out to meet these farmers and help them by training them on how to do good farming and in some cases we give them input, enough funding," the Catholic Priest told ACI Africa, and added, "What we are really doing is programs to move with them (small scale farmers)."