Editor's Comment

Bwalya Ng’andu’s appointment welcome

BWALYA Ng'andu.

WITH the economy under pressure, it became necessary for President Edgar Lungu to change guard at the Ministry of Finance.
President Lungu has roped in Bwalya Ng’andu, who was until his appointment deputy governor in charge of operations at the Bank of Zambia.
The arrival of Dr Ng’andu at the Ministry of Finance is expected to see financial markets responding positively to his appointment.
For a man with vast experience, working at the central bank makes him in good standing with stakeholders in the financial sector, having worked at Barclays Bank, Coopers and Lybrand, Natsave and the Development Bank of Zambia, Zambia Investment Centre (now Zambia Development Agency), United Nations Office, permanent secretary for Luapula Province and deputy governor at the Bank of Zambia.
The stint at BoZ has given Dr Ng’andu the required experience to run the Ministry of Finance and should hit the ground running.
Dr Ng’andu, with an impeccable, admirable and rich curriculum vitae, brings some sense of hope for the investor community during this difficult phase in Zambia’s economic landscape.
As a psychologist, but with some good level of exposure in the financial sector, he comes in at a time investor confidence in Zambia is very low and should now signal that Zambia seeks to redress some of its challenges.
President Lungu made the decision to reassure investors that Zambia has grip on the economy.
In the past one year, there have been hightened concerns the country was irresponsive and unconcerned about having a hard nose on the economy and reigning in on fly-away deficits.
Though Dr Ng’andu has had limited exposure to the fiscal side of the economy, he has capacity to gain the respect of various stakeholders, who include Cabinet ministers as well as donors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank, among other bilateral and multilateral partners.
It is envisaged that the new minister, whose new assignment requires him to work with many teams from both Government and co-operating partners, will leverage his emotional intelligence skills to bring Zambia back to the discussion table with the IMF.
The IMF needs to re-appoint another country representative in Zambia that the Government can start preparing ground for a financial bail-out.
Can Dr Ng’andu inspire confidence towards fiscal consolidation? He should take time to onboard himself to critics, drivers of the current high fiscal deficit and high debts and seek for the total support of the President and Cabinet for him to carry out austerity measures already in motion.
The new minister should also re-assess policies on the table such as the sales tax, whose implementation has delayed, to see if it is in the interest of economic stability.
President Lungu’s expectations from Dr Ng’andu are to ensure he amortises debt and co-ordinates financial activities for the different ministries and their related entities, including stabilising the economy.
Stakeholders such as the Economics Association of Zambia have advised Dr Ng’andu to “hit the ground running” and re-align the economy.
With the fundamentals in place, Dr Ng’andu should re-align the country’s economy to the expectation of all the citizens and the country’s co-operating partners.
His predecessors, Felix Mutati and Margaret Mwanakatwe, have laid a solid foundation for Dr Ng’andu to succeed.

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