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Political instability may derail Zambia’s IMF bailout package: Fitch   

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Political tension could distract Zambia’s plans to access an aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), international rating agency Fitch Ratings said on Tuesday.

While acknowledging that the key rating drivers for Zambia remains fiscal and external deficits and their effect on public sector debt, Fitch said the key risk stemming from the current political tension if it escalated could jeopardize an IMF aid package as well as other lender’s willingness to provide the southern African nation with external financing, a statement posted on its website said.

It added that progress towards an IMF program has remained slow and may be delayed further by domestic political events, adding that expectation of an IMF program was key to Zambia’s B/negative sovereign rating.

Zambia has witnessed political tension emanating from last year’s disputed elections. The tension has worsened following the arrest of the country’s leading opposition figure Hakainde Hichilema who was arrested in April and is facing treason charges.

On July 4, President Edgar Lungu invoked Article 31 of the country’s constitution which gives security wings enhanced security measures to deal with a spate of fires and damage to other public properties witnessed in the country.

The move was approved by parliament and has since been extended for three months.

During an IMF’s recent mission to Zambia last month, the two parties agreed on the remaining actions needed to reach staff-level agreement and a request to the IMF Executive Board could be made next month if the two sides could reach understandings.

Last week, the Zambian leader said the IMF could go if they were not happy with his decision to invoke Article 31 which resulted in the declaration of a state of threatened public emergency.

His comments were backed by Minister of National Development Planning Lucky Mulusa who said Zambia was not desperate for an IMF aid package.

The comments have raised suspicion on the current talks with the IMF, with critics asking the government to come clean on what was happening.

Talks with the IMF began last year as the southern African nation’s economy crumbled due to falling copper prices and a large fiscal deficit.

An IMF program is expected to help support the balance of payments, provide a policy anchor for fiscal and economic reforms and unlock additional sources of external financing from multilateral and bilateral lenders.



Morocco to open embassy in Zambia this year

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Morocco intends to open an embassy in Zambia in September in order to enhance relations between the two countries, a visiting official said on Tuesday.

Morocco’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mounia Boucetta said the embassy will in the interim be headed by a charge d’affaires,

The visiting minister said when he paid a courtesy call on her Zambian counterpart Harry Kalaba that there was need for the two countries to have an action plan for the successful implementation of 19 bilateral agreements signed between the two countries when Moroccan King Muhammed VI visited Zambia in February this year.

The visit, she said, ushered in a new era in the relationship between the two countries, adding that the 19 agreements will boost ties.

According to her, the two countries share a common vision and desire to establish peace, stability and respect for the sovereignty of each country in Africa.

On his part, the Zambian minister said the establishment of the embassy will enhance the country’s continental integration.

The Moroccan minister is here for the review of the 19 agreements in order for the two countries to come up with specific activities to ensure the objectives of the agreements were achieved.

On Monday, she held a meeting with agriculture minister Dora Siliya where they discussed specific areas of cooperation in the agriculture sector.


Cheeky monkey plunges Zambia’s tourist capital into power outage

LUSAKA Zambia(Xinhua) -- A cheeky monkey has plunged Zambia’s southern city of Livingstone into total darkness after tampering with an electricity transformer, the country’s power utility company said Sunday.

The accident occurred on Sunday morning when the monkey interfered with the high-voltage transformer, leaving about 50,000 users in the tourist capital and some parts of Western Zambia without electricity, the country’s largest power company Zesco Limited said.

Workers from the company were on the ground working to correct the damage, said the state broadcaster Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

The monkey survived the electric shock because of its highly insulated palms and has been rescued from the power transformer by officials from Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. 

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