Government to appoint international advisory board

The Chronicle

Mabasa Sasa in New York
THE Government will appoint an international advisory board that will provide a platform for it to adopt best practices, assess and/or adopt emerging trends and explore innovations that advance President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Vision 2030 is President Mnangagwa’s plan to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-income economy by World Bank standards within 12 years.

To this end, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube on Sunday said Government would scour the world for knowledge, innovations and advice via an international advisory board made up of Zimbabweans based in different countries.

Prof Ncube said this in New York in response to a question from the floor during President Mnangagwa’s interaction with Zimbabweans resident in the United States.

He said the countries they were primarily looking to were “China, from Germany, from France, from the UK, from the US, and from Africa”.

“So we are looking at a board in the order of maybe 10 people. This is not an unusual path. Pakistan has announced its international advisory board, it was done by the new Prime Minister Imran Khan. Somalia has just set up a board, Somaliland has a board as well.

“Rwanda has a board. In Nigeria there used to be a board but I’m not so sure now. But this is common practice, we should get the best minds to assist us,” Prof Ncube said.

The Finance Minister also said Government working on a plan to reduce Government expenditure from around 33 percent of GDP to single digits over the coming three years.

To do this, he said, entailed both containing costs and increasing revenue collections.

In an earlier interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prof Ncube said the planned reforms would hurt but were necessary for economic turnaround.

“We have to reduce the public sector wage bill & deal with subsidies but we also have to expand the tax base, increase tax collection efficiencies and ensure compliance with the laws. There is no reform without pain … we are determined to fix this economy within five years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is attracting self-financing investments, particularly from China, and hence there are no fears of Harare falling into a debt trap, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.

The Head of State and Government said this to Zimbabweans resident in the United States at a lively and well-subscribed interaction with them in New York on Sunday.

President Mnangagwa is here for the 73rd Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly where he will deliver his maiden address to the world’s biggest international organisation since he won the July 2018 harmonised elections.

In a segment of the interaction during which he took direct questions from Zimbabweans, the President was asked what his administration was doing to ensure the country did not fall into a debt trap that could have dire consequences on developmental aspirations.

President Mnangagwa said most of the money coming from China was going towards revenue-generating infrastructure projects that would pay themselves off.

He said, “During (Zimbabwe’s) period of isolation, very few countries outside the West assisted us. Some of the notable countries which came to our assistance are China, India, Brazil, Russia and Malaysia. And when things are good you then do not forget your friend who stood with you during bad times, but you do not sell your country because somebody stood with you during bad times.

“What is necessary when you get loans or investment, it must be structured. (There is need for) investment in projects which can re-finance themselves to pay the loan.”

President Mnangagwa cited the two massive capital projects of the expansion of Kariba South and Hwange power stations, which are financed with Chinese capital.

“I do not see any danger where you have a project which becomes productive in terms of revenue streams to pay for it-self,” he said. “When you finish paying the loan, the asset remains with us and we will continue to have electricity so I do not see the danger there.”

Weighing in on the issue, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, who is part of the President’s delegation on the visit to New York, said China was “where the money is”.

Prof Ncube also said African countries should negotiate sustainable terms when seeking loans.

“We have a very strong debt sustainability analysis framework which allows us to understand whether we are over indebted or not, (whether) we can pay or not.

“The Chinese also do that analysis themselves and if they find out that you cannot pay they do not lend you the money, this is not free money,” he said.

At the recent Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, Beijing unveiled a $60 billion package to support development on the continent over the next three years.

Beijing’s cumulative assistance to African development initiatives since 2000 was about $124 billion by 2016.