Zambia?s minister for finance and national planning, Ngandu Magande, says the country will save six billion Kwacha (about 180 million dollars) in loans. His comment follows the decision by donors to cancel the country?s debt. He says the funds will help his government achieve the Millennium Development Goals. From the capital, Lusaka, Ngandu Magande spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the debt write-off and its effect on Zambia?s economy.

?Zambia has been following the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative Program. Last year in April we qualified for the HIPC Initiative Completion Point and we had about 52% of Zambian debt written off. So by the beginning of this month?Zambia?s foreign debt came down from 7.1 billion dollars to 502 million dollars. 

He says that as a result, Zambia will become a financially sound country, which will help attract outside investment. 

?The immediate implication is that the feelings of the donor community are that Zambia has been able to implement a very stringent financial management program under the HIPC Initiative. So there is a lot of interest that has been aroused among our cooperating partners to support the country. And we?hope that [we will] be able to get more grants. Zambia?s rating in the financial market has gone up, in fact?we are about to engage a company to do a rating for Zambia so you know where we fall in the market. But we see that already this enthusiasm by the private sector is translating itself into new money that is coming into the country.?

The minister says that the education and health departments will improve because of the extra funds.  

?One of the things we want to do is in the two special sectors, education and health. I think there was a lot of frustration because we didn?t have adequate conditions for either the teachers to operate from or for the doctors to operate from. We lost quite a lot of our educated manpower in these areas; therefore we want to try to fill up that void. We want to make sure that when we produce the doctors that they should be able to operate from well-equipped hospitals. When we produce the teachers they must find they are operating from a well-equipped education system where classrooms have desks, books, and so on.?     

Magande expresses hope for Zambia?s progress and future improvements.

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