LUSAKA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on Monday held talks with visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on wide-ranging issues, including the debt restructuring process.
During the talks held at State House, the Zambian president said the country was eager to have the debt restructuring process concluded during the first quarter of 2023.
"As Zambia, we have a timeframe and that timeframe is to conclude these things by the first quarter of 2023. It will help a lot to open up areas that are causing negative sentiments, that we are not concluding debt restructuring," he said, in remarks with reporters present at an open meeting, followed by a closed one.
While saying that the failure to conclude the process was causing negative sentiments resulting in investors considering the country as still a high risk for doing business, he pledged that his country would continue doing whatever was necessary to ensure the success of debt restructuring and address issues toward economic reforms, good governance and fighting corruption.
The government wanted to work with the IMF to also close the content of the debt restructuring process under the Group of 20 major economies' Common Framework and ensure that a conclusion was reached, he said, stressing that failure to conclude the debt restructuring will distort the gains made so far in the country's economic transformation agenda and the acceleration of the debt restructuring program will create space to free resources for social sector spending and strengthen the economy.
The Zambian president thanked the IMF chief for the visit, saying the visit underscores the importance that the international lender attaches to the relations with Zambia. He further dispelled reports that the IMF program will hurt the country's economy and worsen people's living standards, saying the IMF program was structured by the Zambian government.
"Zambia is the one which went to IMF with our problems to restructure our economy. Growth had plummeted from six percent to negative growth, and we took a decision to reconstruct the economy," he added.
On her part, the IMF chief commended Zambia on strides made in reforming the country's economy as well as efforts to tackle the country's debt problem.
While acknowledging that reforms could be painful, she noted that the reform results in stronger and more vibrant economies.
She said the IMF was encouraged that the government has made strides toward restoring the economy as well as fiscal and debt sustainability. She further commended the government over its prudent management of resources which were being put to good use by investing in areas such as education and social protection.
According to her, Zambia has immense potential for economic growth, adding that the international lender was keen to continue engaging Zambia to enable accelerated economic growth.
She said the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and COVID-19 have brought lessons that only economies with strong fiscal positions and institutions that provide for transparency and accountability have better opportunities to do better.
The IMF chief and her delegation arrived in Zambia Sunday for a two-day visit to discuss Zambia's progress following the country's qualification for an IMF credit facility.
The IMF Board approved a 1.3-billion-U.S.-dollar new Extended Credit Facility arrangement for Zambia on Aug. 31, 2022.