Biti who is the secretary general of the Prime Minister Tsvangirai Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), accepted the finance minister’s job in 2009 when the unity government was formed.
At the time, the tough talking commercial lawyer, had no illusions about the task at hand. He faced the difficult task of transforming a moribund economy riddled with numerous problems. Among them a virtually dead manufacturing sector, a collapsed agricultural sector, world-record inflation rate, a soaring rate of unemployment and mounting poverty levels.
Though he has managed to register a few economic milestones generally characterised by a stabilised economy, Biti still feels the task is still no better.
“I still think the job is horrible and easily the worst job in the world,” Biti told Cable News Network (CNN) in an interview published Thursday from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Biti, a firebrand critic of Mugabe’s economic policies, says his greatest challenge remains that of trying to work with the inextricably linked sectors of business and politics.
“We need to put a clear demarcation between the vagaries of politics and obligation of making people eat, have jobs, clean water, good health delivery and making people go to school, we need to put a wall between that,” said Biti. “Zimbabwe needs to get its politics right which is why an election is inevitable in Zimbabwe but it is also undisputable that despite the political shenanigans it is still a place where one can actually
invest and get good returns.”
A lot of would be investors have halted plans to invest in the country due to the controversial indigenisation law that forces all foreign owned companies with a share value of above $500 000 to cede 51 percent ownership to locals.
But he however says the country cannot be entirely judged on the basis of such a law.
He said, “There is a lot of mistrust in the Zimbabwean economy but mistrust comes out of ignorance, you have to understand what you are dealing with and a lot of people don’t understand what they are dealing with because there is a lot of negativity that is churned out on the internet and news broadcast.”
Though Biti doesn’t possess any qualifications in finance and economics, he has managed to get the country’s economy on a growth path last seen over a decade ago but now predicted to be over 4 percent by year end. He has a reputation for being a voracious reader with a penchant for quoting from sources ranging from Greek classics, through Shakespeare and Dickens to popular contemporary books like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
Recently he had to draw strength from some of these books in his fight to uncover possible pilferage of diamond money.
“The country is still arrested by politics. Contribution of diamonds to the economy is still negligible. Last year the direct contribution to the coffers was a mere $35 million, so diamonds are not the Eldorado that many people thought they will be and part of the problem lies in the smuggling linkages that we think is still happening,” said Biti.
Asked if he agrees with those who say the money is being channelled towards funding President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, Biti said, “I have no evidence. These diamonds are alluvial so anyone can literally mine them with a spoon or the sole of your heel.”