Zimbabwe staggers on

LAST Friday, Finance and Economic Development minister, Mthuli Ncube, tweeted that he would curb Zimbabwe’s economic crisis by limiting “government expenditure, rationalise posts in the public service, strengthen wage bill management, reduce travel expenditures and review expenditures on fuel benefit levels.”

Guest Column by Pearl Matibe

His permanent secretary, George Guvamatanga appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee that oversees his ministry on Monday providing oral evidence on the 2019 national budget.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the United Nations General Assembly in September that he would bring the country to a middle class economy “with a per capita income of $3 500 by 2030.” I applaud these efforts, knowing much more needs to be done. I’m of the view that Zimbabweans need to be cognisant of a whole lot more and be informed of all possible issues, concerns and solutions to have as informed a position as possible.

Former White House adviser to Ronald Reagan and applied economist, Steve Hanke measures Zimbabwe’s inflation each day; I’ve engaged him directly seeking to understand how he see things from his perspective on state of things in Zimbabwe considering that 10 years ago, in 2008, he published a report through the Cato Institute on Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation.

He’s of the view that Zimbabwe is headed to serfdom.

Forbes readers — and Zimbabwe’s potential foreign direct investors — are paying attention to Hanke. He posted his Forbes opinion, Zimbabwe’s Road to Serfdom on Sunday night shortly before mid-night, Washington, DC East Coast time. In no time, it had received 2 833 views; digital media has made sure the print media business can never be what it used to be. In it, he agrees with his friend, the late Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), who published the Road to Serfdom.

What’s the problem?

Hanke says, “government interventions into markets, whether they be via regulatory mandates or the outright taking of private property, will lead to an initial failure. In short, they will be counterproductive. In an attempt to correct its initial errors, the government then does more of the same, only in greater detail. Further disappointments will lead to still more far-reaching and detailed interventionist measures, until socialism and a state of total tyranny are reached.”

In 38 years, Zimbabwe has not managed to rid itself of poverty and preventable diseases such as cholera, just as the economic trials and trauma continue.

In the urban areas such as its capital, Harare, there’s a tiny improvement of some fuel arrivals, highly priced basic commodities on the shelves and news that a small group of people control our country — that it’s governed by an oligarchy.

In the high population residential areas of Harare, there are people with disabilities who can’t beat the rush, push and shove at a cooking oil queue (line) while wheelchair bound. What more with impaired vision?
In the rural and remote areas, we have yet to truly understand and act on the need for this group and the marginalised among us. The role of these populations play in our lives is immeasurable, and requires us to pay more attention to the crucial economic issues.

Yet government has only reached out to segments of the skilled diaspora — New York and other cities — sympathetic to its ideology. Those of divergent views are expert thinkers, too.

On the bright side, Zimbabweans remain optimistic and are embracing the fact that they will have to go through a painful process to growth.

Members of Parliament, sectoral organisations, diaspora and Zimbabwe’s university economics departments in particular must lead in helping our government and its leaders adapt to meet the needs of a 21st century population. I will continue to monitor trends, break down barriers and provide think tank impact and strategy for our country’s benefit.

Where we are going, going forward?

All sides of the political, social and economic aisles would need to join a focused plan to gain confidence and trust from those the country needs to do business with. Government must take the initial, first, significant step to transparently include the full range of talent and diversity of its people and to help the country. What has it done so far, is markedly insufficient. Some might say, it doesn’t meet the mark.

I call on government to quickly work with the heterogeneity of diaspora and domestic stakeholders and business leaders to take a hard look at the diversity of perspectives, experience on their teams and real solutions to these very real problems. If we do not have a medley of thinkers, our government and our stakeholders may not be as well-positioned as possible to keep our country competitive and adequately address the risks, challenges and opportunities ahead.