Zambia President fires Finance Minister, replaces her with deputy governor

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Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, has fired the country’s Finance Minister and replaced her with the central bank's deputy governor responsible for operations.

The Zambian leader said via Twitter on Monday, “I have appointed Bank of Zambia deputy governor, Dr Bwalya Ngandu, as Finance Minister.” He also nominated Ngandu to Parliament, saying he was “confident that Zambia’s next phase of economic development" will be managed well under him. 

On Sunday evening, Lungu’s office thanked the outgoing Treasury head, Margaret Mwanakatwe, for her service during her tenure. No reasons have been given for Lungu’s decision to fire Mwanakatwe. 

A panel of economists at FocusEconomics expect GDP growth in Zambia to grow by 3.4% this year, saying a “challenging external backdrop will likely cause export growth to slow and, in turn, an overall loss of momentum this year” for Zambia’s economy. The new Zambian Finance Minister is expected to hit the ground running to address systematic and economic challenges hobbling Zambia.

Ngandu holds a PhD in Applied Psychology from Cranfield University in the UK. Reports from Zambia show that Lungu has “challenged the new Finance Minister to settle Zambia’s mounting debt” obligation. 

Investment experts at Rich Frontiers said on Monday Zambia was battling to “shrink a fiscal deficit that amounted to 7.5% of GDP” in 2018. In May this year, ratings agency, Moody’s downgraded Zambia’s credit rating From Caa1 to Caa2, which is described as a bad grading for investment. 

Moody’s explained that under the Caa2 rating essentially means that a country’s "external and liquidity pressures (are) impairing government ability to service debt over medium-term” and also raise the “probability of default” over the near term outlook. 

Moreover, said FocusEconomics analysts, “price pressures are expected to climb and weigh on private consumption, while concerns remain elevated over the economy’s ability to finance its hefty external debt burden and the risks they pose to wider” macroeconomic stability.  

Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation has also reported on Lungu appointing a parliamentary taskforce “to be part of the Konkola Copper Mines -KCM- negotiating team”. The committee already consists of other government officials.

“President Lungu says he wants transparency in the process and the team will also include unions and chambers of commerce.” 

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