We are already getting some indications of what the death of President Sata may mean for some economic policies. There are reports that Government may be backing away from plans to impose a 20 percent royalty rate on open pit mining in the country, according to Barrick Gold executives.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda announced earlier this month that that from January royalties on open pit mines will rise to 20 percent and on underground mines to 8 percent from 6 percent currently.
Barrick Gold (owners of Lumwana Copper Mine) have been threatening government over the issue, suggesting that it would mean closure of Lumwana. They told Reuters on Thursday that “our sense is there would be movement away from that number….that's certainly the direction discussions were going”
Whether PF without Michael Sata caves in presumably depends on whether it makes electoral sense and is profitable to the individuals holding power currently. Many of these mining companies fund these political parties so their confidence is probably not misplaced.
As for Finance Minister Chikwanda,though he may not like Vice President Scott, it is very likely that they will see eye to eye on this one. They are both broadly pro-mining companies in their posture.
And of course the Opposition as usual appears asleep to the mining discussions. Indeed, some of the opposition parties already are in the pocket book of mining companies. Some opposition parties have actually opposed the new fiscal regime.
However, one reason why the new fiscal regime may survive is that any reduction in taxation will almost certainly plunge Zambia in further fiscal problems. The 2015 Budget is already very tight and with the elections coming we expect more leakage and wider economic challenges.
It would be economic folly to reverse it only to borrow more or face a fiscal crunch. But then again, nothing surprises us in the land of the brave. If it is reversed Chikwanda may need to issue another Budget.
Of course if we have a new party holding power end January 2015- they will need an emergency Budget. A tricky proposition for all of them because they have no shadow budgets! So it is chaos perhaps whichever way one cuts it.
In all of this, one can’t help but wonder. What else are we likely to see reversed by the death of Michael Sata?
Economist | Researcher
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2014