Investors Buy Zambian Bonds After President Fires Finance Minister

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Bwalya Ng’andu was sworn in as Zambia’s new finance minister, a day after Margaret Mwanakatwe was fired from the post.

Ng’andu, 64, a former deputy governor of Zambia’s central bank, is the third person to hold the post in three years. He was sworn in at a ceremony at the presidency in the capital, Lusaka.

Key Insights

  • Ng’andu’s appointment comes as the government tries to revive an economy that the International Monetary Fund says is growing at the slowest pace in more than two decades, after a slump in the price of copper, Zambia’s main export. A drought is causing power shortages and an escalating dispute with copper producers isn’t helping either.
  • The incoming finance minister will need to soothe investor concerns that Zambia may default on its debts unless it gets a bailout from the IMF or negotiates easier terms on loans it obtained from China.
  • He’ll also have to rein in the government’s ballooning budget deficit, possibly with spending cuts. The shortfall in the first quarter was 4.8 billion kwacha ($383 million), 12% higher than the Finance Ministry’s forecast. The ministry has a deficit target of 6.5% of gross domestic product this year, compared with 10% last year.

Market Reaction

  • The price of Zambia’s dollar bonds due in September 2022 rose 1.7%, the most since June 20, to 66.9 cents on the dollar, equating to a yield of 19.9%.

Comments

  • “He comes from a banking setup, so he understands a lot more about the actual realities of the Zambian economy,” said Chibamba Kanyama, a Lusaka-based independent economist. “He is not a politician and virtue of him not being a politician, I am sure he will rein in colleagues. I am very sure that he will be able to succeed if he focuses on the fiscal macro economic stabilization and also and do away with sales tax.”
  • “We are very encouraged the appointment of the new finance minister, who is a technocrat,” Barrick Gold Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow told reporters in Lusaka on Monday/
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