August 14, 2004

ZNCB privatisation to cost Government K270bn

World Bank country director for Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, Hart Schafer, has pledged to support the government's decision on the privatisation of the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB). In an interview, Schafer said the Bank would not impose any conditions for the sale of ZNCB. "We are aware of the debate this matter has generated. We are supporting the government in this and we shall support whatever viable option they shall decide as the best way forward for ZNCB," he said. The privatisation of ZNCB is one of the benchmarks for Zambia's attaining the HIPC completion point, but the labour movement and other stakeholders have opposed its outright sale and have instead suggested that the government holds on to the bank. However, government appears adamant to effect the privatisation, and has continued negotiations with a consortium that includes the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's private sector investing arm.

Before, commerce minister Dipak Patel had disclosed that at least K270 billion would be required for would-be retrenchees at the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) should the sale of 49 per cent of the bank's shares succeed. However, as the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba has stressed, if the money needed was at least K270 billion and what was available were the K50 billion that commerce deputy minister Geoffrey Samukonga had mentioned earlier, then it would not be advisable to go ahead with the sale. (The Post, Lusaka)

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