World Bank avail $600m to fund Zambia’s agriculture and energy

By Jeff Kapembwa

LUSAKA – The World Bank has set aside $600 million for Zambia to invest in agriculture, energy, rural roads and budget support over the next three years as part of its appreciation of what the Southern African country was doing to realign the economy.

Zambia, whose external debt portfolio hovers around $10 billion and has in recent years been experiencing overlapping public expenditure and a bloated budget deficit, has this year pledged to re-align the economy and enable it secure counterpart funding from various partners to bring the economy on track under the 2017 budget dubbed: “Zambia Plus”, which promotes a home grown economy.

About $150 million of the total amount will be used in budget support, $255 million for agriculture to support irrigation while $280 million is meant for developing the energy sector.

Under the International Development Agency (IDA) programme, the Bretton Woods institution has dedicated an additional $200 million to assist improve rural roads that will support agricultural development under the International Development Association (IDA).

Bank executive director for Zambia, Andrew Bvumbe, who visited the country last week stated that the international lender was happy with Zambia’s zeal to develop a home grown economic programme and that the donors are ready to support the cause to better the lives of people.

Bvumbe said Zambia’s pursuance of economic recovery programme was commendable and the addressing of macroeconomic fundamentals as evidenced by low inflation and the local currency show signs of stability.

The World Bank welcomed government’s focus on prioritising development in agriculture, rural road development and energy, all key to creating jobs and enhancing economic development.

The World Bank, further noted with pleasure how Zambia is pursuing the International Monetary

Fund (IMF) for $1.6 billion bridging finance to realign the economy and that the developments are progressive which need support.

“We are happy with how the discussions with the IMF are moving. On the policy level we are converging with the Fund and this is important for us to move forward. We are looking forward to the conclusion of these discussions between Zambia and the Fund.

“Broadly speaking, I am happy with the updates I got from the minister on the economic front and macro fundamentals that are good. We have a good foundation to move forward and make a difference in the lives of ordinary Zambians,” Bvumbe said.

Felix Mutati, the Zambian Finance Minister has commended the World Bank for the gesture adding that that the committed to increasing its support to Zambia under the IDA was welcome.

Speaking to The Southern Times on the sidelines of the meeting with World Bank, Mutati stated that the coming of the bank was timely as the country was grappling to stabilize the economy and ensure there is fiscal consolidation to grow the economy.

Zambia has since agreed to the terms given by the World Bank to utilise the resources to transform critical sectors to address poverty, job creation and inclusive growth.

Zambia has been elected to host the IDA meeting in November this year. In a related development, Zambia’s cooperating partners, headed by the United States have also commended the country over its economic growth programme and for maintaining an open-door engagement policy in the process of driving the country’s economy towards stabilisation and growth.

Leader of the cooperating partners, Eric Schultz said the donors were happy with the country’s resilience to seek to grow the economy as espoused under the $4.5 billion budget for 2017.

The Co-operating Partners Group included United States, France, Italy, China, Ireland, Sweden, Britain, Japan, Finland, Germany, United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Union, African Development Bank and International Labour Organisation said they were happy with the vision of Zambia.

“It is for this reason that your commendable work on publishing monthly economic indicators

should continue and be supplemented by the launch of the 2017 mid-year economic review.

“On our part, we undertake to continue our periodical performance reviews of the various grants and assistance programmes in Zambia,” the partners said in a statement availed to journalists after the meeting.

Mutati told the partners that most economic fundamentals have performed well during the first half of 2017 because of the hard work of Zambians, the re-energisation of the local private sector, and the unwavering support of the partners in tandem with the international investor and business community.

The poor performance of non-tax-revenue collections has had a significant impact, resulting in a revenue deficit in the first half of 2017 adding: “But rest assured that we are instituting measures to improve the situation,”

And Bvumbe has urged Zambia to transform its agriculture potential into reality by placing emphasis on the promotion of agro-value chains and the bank is committed to ensuring that the country grows its potential and move away from traditional mining as the country’s mainstay.

However, Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya, who met the delegation last week, stated that Government is modernising agriculture and will not allow people to settle in farm blocks without adequate infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity.

Government has embarked on measures that will see agriculture become the mainstay of the economy.

“We sourced $115 million from the World Bank for the implementation of the irrigation development project, and we are on course to construct three dams in Chirundu, Chisamba and Mufulira districts.

“The funds are also being used to construct access roads and installation of electricity transmission lines. We are sinking 45 boreholes to ensure provision of clean domestic water to all resettled households,” Siliya added.

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