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Country Report Zambia September 2017

Country Report Zambia September 2017

  • September 2017
  • ID: 2387824
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

Table of Contents

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Outlook for 2017-21



  • In the short term, recent political tensions will cool following the release of an opposition leader, but there are several trigger-points for further unrest, leaving stability fragile throughout the forecast period.
  • The government will adopt an economic policy of austerity with the scrapping of consumer subsidies, most notably for electricity, while protecting pro-poor spending under a loan facility with the IMF.
  • Monetary policy will be loosened in 2017-18 as inflation remains well within the central bank's medium-term target range, followed by a period of stasis and then tightening in 2021 as price pressures rise.
  • Real GDP growth will average 3.6% a year in 2017-21 (down from an annual average of 7% in 2000-14) as fiscal austerity, subdued copper prices and infrastructure constraints weigh on the pace of expansion.
  • Inflation will settle at an annual average of 6.7% in 2017-19 on the back of currency stability. The rate will then increase to 8.4% in 2020-21 as copper prices recede (in 2020) and election-related uncertainty affects the kwacha.
  • The current-account deficit will narrow from an estimated deficit 4.4% of GDP in 2016 to a surplus of 0.9% of GDP in 2019 as exports rise. It will then return to a deficit in 2020-21 as copper prices fall to relatively lower levels.


Review



  • Activists from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) have presented the party's executive with a petition demanding that the finance minister, who is not a member of the ruling party, be expelled from government for allegedly harbouring presidential ambitions.
  • Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of Zambia's largest opposition party, the United Party for National Development, was released from prison in late August after the state prosecution dropped treason charges against him. However, a judge warned that he can be rearraigned at any time.
  • A local power distributor, the Copperbelt Energy Corporation, has resumed power supplies to Mopani Copper Mines after a dispute about increased mining tariffs was resolved. The mining company had temporarily closed down most of its operations and threatened to lay off nearly 5,000 workers.
  • On the back of low inflation and a desire to reduce commercial lending rates, the Bank of Zambia (the central bank) cut its base rate by 150 basis points in August for the third time in 2017. However, the bank noted that crowding out by government remains a major risk to monetary policy effectiveness.
  • A steady trend of disinflation continued in August, with an annual headline rate of 6.4%-the lowest since 2012-largely driven by a bumper harvest.


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