EDITORIAL COMMENT: Now the real hard work begins

The Chronicle

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday swore in his Cabinet team made up of a healthy mix of technocrats, tried and tested hands, a dose of energetic youths and a number of women who should all immediately knuckle down to the arduous task of taking the country out of the current economic quagmire.

There is no time for the new team to celebrate their appointments as the parlous state of the economy requires them to hit the ground running and put shoulders to the wheel.

Extricating Zimbabwe from the morass it finds itself in needs the collective efforts of all its citizens with those entrusted with Cabinet positions shouldering the biggest responsibility of carrying this nation forward. This should not be a problem since most of the appointees have credible track records of being achievers in their various fields.

President Mnangagwa has described his Cabinet as “diverse, dynamic, youthful and streamlined . . . with the skills and experience required to achieve our goals” and we hope they live up to that billing.

He said his Government would retain the 100-day/rapid results approach to routinely set goals and evaluate progress and we welcome this undertaking. Some of his appointees have already set out their priorities and we applaud their foresight.

The new Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, a renowned economist, said he wants to prioritise currency reforms, which could entail removing bond notes in the short to medium term. In an interview with our Harare Bureau from his base in Switzerland at the weekend, Prof Ncube said President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030 — which envisages creating a middle income economy by 2030 — resonated with targets he had been advising African governments. “I am very clear that there have to be currency reforms and the (current) currency approach is not working.

“In doing so, there are three choices that I will explore and pursue with urgency: One, adopt the US dollar only and remove the bond notes from circulation through a demonetisation process and also liberalise exchange controls.

“Two, adopt the rand by negotiating to join the Rand Monetary Area, and this will close the gap in loss of competitiveness against our largest trading partner, South Africa.

“Three, adopt a new Zim dollar, and here one needs to be clear that it has to be backed by adequate foreign reserves and macro-economic conditions for its stability. Foreign currency accounts will also be introduced. For sure, currency reforms will be implemented.”

Asked how soon the currency reforms would be enforced, Prof Ncube said: “I would like to implement this by year-end.”

For Zimbabwe to achieve its set targets, he said, economic growth had to be “strong, sustained and inclusive”.

“I strongly believe in the President’s vision of seeing Zimbabwe become a middle-income country. This will be attained through economic growth that is strong, sustained and inclusive. I have pioneered strategies on how African countries, like Zimbabwe, can grow a sustainable middle class, get people out of poverty, and become middle-income countries.”

The former vice-president and chief economist of the African Development Bank said he would burn the midnight oil to attract international capital.

“I promise to do my best, I am a hard worker and I want to see Zimbabwe record strong and sustained growth. I also want to see creation of jobs and one of my major priorities would be to attract foreign investors and rebuild confidence. We do not only want to get foreign investment, but, also, domestic investment is extremely important.

“We will need to look at the several pillars that affect economic development such as government expenditure, attracting foreign direct investment and so on.”

Prof Ncube said he was prepared for the pay cut that comes with leaving a lucrative international private sector posting for a Government job. We applaud his selflessness, clarity of thought and zeal to see his country prosper and call on the authorities to grant him all the support he needs to execute this difficult mandate.

The Ministry of Finance will form the backbone of all economic activity in the country and will be crucial in achieving President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030. Tough painful decisions will have to be made to kick-start the economy and some of these austerity measures will be difficult to swallow. Zimbabweans must be prepared to take these bitter pills now for prosperity in the future.

Currency reforms will be resisted of course by those who have been benefiting from illicit dealings but Government must be ruthless with these individuals. We urge Prof Ncube to forge ahead with his plans in the safe knowledge that he has the support of the President and people of Zimbabwe.

As for the rest of the Cabinet members, we call on them to resist the temptation to accept bribes from people seeking favours from Government. The era of corrupt Ministers stalling investment projects until their palms are greased long died with the former President Robert Mugabe’s reign. There is no room for passengers or corruption in the new dispensation. Let the real hard work begin.