Zambian president promises to cut deficit, restore economic growth

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LUSAKA — Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema said on Friday his new government would implement policies to reduce the fiscal deficit, restore economic growth and review mining policies.

In his first address to a new session of parliament since his election in August, Hichilema said officials would also review agricultural policies, revise electricity prices and reform state power firm Zesco.

In November, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer became the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the coronavirus crisis, after failing to keep up with payments on its more than $12 billion of international debt.

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“Rebuilding our economy is top on our agenda. We will implement policies to address the fiscal deficit while ensuring that confidence is restored in the markets,” Hichilema said.

“We have indeed inherited an economy that is in dire straits and requires bold and decisive action to be taken,” he said, adding that his government was committed to halting the accumulation of expensive public debt.

Zambia’s external debt includes about $3 billion in Eurobonds, $3.5 billion in bilateral debt, $2.1 billion owed to multilateral agencies and $2.9 billion in commercial bank debt.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Alexander Winning and MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Edmund Blair)