April 7, 2018 / 8:57 AM / 7 months ago

Zambian economy to grow more than 4 pct this year, finmin says

LUSAKA, April 7 (Reuters) - Zambia’s economy is expected to grow by more than 4 percent this year helped by the mining, agriculture and construction sectors, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said.

Economic growth in Africa’s second-largest copper producer rose to 4.1 percent last year, helped in part by higher commodity prices.

Officials had initially targeted at least 5 percent growth this year, but Mwanakatwe’s comments in a statement issued by the finance ministry suggest growth could be closer to last year’s level.

Zambia, which expects copper output to rise to over 1 million tonnes this year, slapped Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals with a massive $8 billion tax bill last month.

It has held talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over an aid programme, but the IMF rejected its debt management plans in February.

Mwanakatwe said the government would complete a detailed debt sustainability exercise in the next two weeks before re-opening discussions with the IMF.

Zambia’s foreign debt stood at $8.7 billion at the end of March, she said, adding that this year the government wanted to achieve a fiscal deficit of not more than 6.1 percent of gross domestic product, the same level as in 2017.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; editing by Alexander Winning and Jason Neely

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