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IMF Report A little too late, Zambian Chronicle Already Warned GRZ
click here: Zambia’s Short To Medium Term Outlook – Extremely Encouraging …
By Shapi Shacinda
LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia has made strides in growing its economy but needs to handle commodity price windfalls prudently and develop infrastructure to avert a possible recession, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

IMF board members were in Zambia to assess economic progress made since the fund, the World Bank and other western financiers reduced the southern African country’s foreign debt to $502 million in 2006 from $7.1 billion.

“We acknowledge that despite the impressive economic performance and positive medium term outlook, challenges and risks remain,” the IMF directors said in a statement after a meeting with President Levy Mwanawasa.

Zambia’s economy has grown by an average 5 percent in the past six years and it has brought inflation to single digits for the first time in three decades.

The Fund said Zambia needed to manage windfall from higher commodity prices wisely to maintain steady economic growth. Copper mining is the cornerstone of the Zambian economy.

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“We would note two important challenges … the first being how to manage the macro impact of large foreign exchange inflow,” said Miranda Xafa, an IMF director.

“You certainly do not want to get into a boom (and) bust cycle that others have found themselves in, in that while the boom and bust lasts, they try to spend it all at once and while commodity prices fall, they slow down in possible recession.”

Treasury data showed Zambia received nearly $1.5 billion in foreign direct investments while earnings in copper exports were around $4.7 billion in 2007.

“The second challenge is building the infrastructure and removing impediments to private sector development . . . to improve the business climate by facilitating investments and growth,” Xafa said.

The IMF also discussed a new financing package of a “small” undisclosed amount with Zambia after the expiry of the $320 million three-year poverty reduction growth facility.

The IMF warned Zambia about managing its debt.

“We are aware that the government is now seeking a sovereign credit rating that will facilitate access to international capital markets and we are confident that the government will use these funds wisely,” Xafa said.

“We would caution that after this debt forgiveness, it is important to maintain debt sustainability by using non-concessionary borrowing to finance viable projects (that) have a rate of return high enough to justify the borrowing.”

Mwanawasa told the board members that Zambia would continue with prudent macroeconomic management and economic reforms to attract further foreign direct investments.

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