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Zambia seeks IMF help over COVID-19

By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
GOVERNMENT is in the process of applying to multilateral partner organisations for COVID-19 support, Finance Minister Bwalya Ng’andu has said.
The International Monetary Fund has availed US$50 billion to affected countries under the rapid disbursing emergency facilities while the World Bank has approved support of up to US$14 billion under a fast track COVID-19 Facility.
“We are in the process of making applications to our multilateral partner organisations for COVID-19 support,” he said at a media brifing in Lusaka yesterday.
Dr Ng’andu emphasized that the impact of the outbreak had been both extensive and severe adding that it was a health an economic crisis characterised by financial market stress and a collapse in commodity prices.
He said the outbreak had led to disruptions in supply chains, created uncertainties and significantly dampened near-term growth prospects.
Meanwhile, the minister said panic buying of essential commodities such as mealie meal has a potential of further increasing inflation.
Zambia’s inflation rate for the month of March stands at 14 percent.
Dr Ng’andu expressed concern that inflation could further increase if panic buying of commodities such as mealie meal continued.
He also warned retail outlets to avoid taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to distort prices and therefore worsen the inflation spiral.
“More recently, panic buying particularly of essential commodities such as mealie meal has a potential of further increasing inflation.
“We encourage businesses and retail outlets to avoid taking advantage of the pandemic to distort prices and therefore worsen the inflation spiral,” Dr Ng’andu said.
Dr Ng’andu said food inflation, exchange rate depreciation, the effects of electricity and petroleum price adjustments had led to the increase in overall inflation.
The minister was however confident that annual inflation was projected to remain above the target range of six to eight percent.

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