The Sunday Mail
The challenges Zimbabwe’s economy and people face require sobriety and dispassionate analysis in the hard glare of daylight.
It is easy to assign blame for factional purposes when it comes to the tremors bond notes experienced in recent days, the hike in the prices of basic goods, and the scarcity in fuel supply.
It is likewise simple to wear rose-coloured lenses and say, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright. We are on the right track.”
Mouthing platitudes will not fix the economy. Opportunistic factional posturing will not create jobs and opportunities, put money in people’s pockets, bring down the prices of basic goods, or fill fuel tanks. What we need is to first accept what the real problem is: Zimbabwe faces an intertwined production and currency issue, which if left unaddressed will keep the nation in that old dance of two steps forward and three steps backward.
It is a problem that gets oxygen from growing indiscipline that allows wanton speculative practices, rent-seeking approaches to self-enrichment, and blatant corruption by businesspeople and politicians. Zimbabwe is using a basket of currencies that includes monetary units from a host of countries working side by side with our bond notes and coins.
We don’t have a currency of our own. We rely on money from other countries to survive here. That money can only get here in one of a few ways: export earnings, foreign direct investment, Diaspora remittances, aid and loans being the foremost legitimate channels of accessing foreign currency.
FDI has been coming in dribs and drabs for years now, and the brutal reality is that we are simply not attracting enough of it to plan a national economy with at present. Diaspora remittances are a function of the economies in which non-resident Zimbabweans make their living and we have no control over that. Aid is largely being directed to non-State sectors and can thus not provided a fulcrum for economic revival. As for loans, yes institutions like the African Export-Import Bank are commendably coming forward with support.
But Section 4 of Zidera still instructs all Americans seconded to international financial institutions to oppose or vote against “an extension by the respective institutions of any loan, credit or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe”, among other sanctions.
So we cannot count on money from IFIs to steer recovery and development.
That means our survival lies in domestic solutions, in growing production for both internal consumption and for export. Production for internal consumption provides for import substitution, thus saving the nation a lot of money.
Import substitution in one economic sub-sector not only creates jobs in that particular area, but with properly integrated value chains also has a multiplier effect on other sub-sectors and sectors.
We saw this with the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme and the Specialised Maize Production and Import Substitution Programme, which we all know better as Command Agriculture.
Command Agriculture is a targeted intervention, a deliberate investment to grow a sub-sector and there really is no need to say again here how this approach has delivered positives for food security, food imports savings, and capacity utilisation among others. Now it is being expanded to cover more sub-sectors of agriculture, such as other crops, livestock and irrigation. As nation, our focus should be on such deliberate, targeted, structured interventions that can create jobs and opportunities, boost disposable income and save on import costs. We want to see our politicians and bureaucrats learning from the experiences and building on the successes of Command Agriculture. Apart from dealing with the fundamentals of the economic superstructure, Zimbabwe also needs to confront the demon of indiscipline.
There is a free for all with people using their influence to externalise money.
They either bank it in institutions abroad or house it in purchases there.
The country cannot continue to bleed millions of United States dollars when our productive sectors are crying out for foreign currency.
There is need for stringent controls on the movement of money outside of the country. Further, there is need to clamp down on corruption. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and Police need to be adequately supported in the quest to bring discipline.
Where suspicion of criminal financial activity exists, thorough investigations must be instituted and the culprits brought to book regardless of their social status. And not only must they be brought to book, but the proceeds of their criminal activities must be seized and restored to the people of Zimbabwe. In the same vein, our country cannot advance when we have the nonsense of some sections of the media supporting illegal cash vendors when the State moves to restore discipline.
We cannot continue cheering self-serving saboteurs whether they are well-heeled elites brewing their carnage in boardrooms or Government offices, or they are shysters and “dealers” lurking on our pavements.
In a nutshell, dealing with the economic fundamentals and rooting out indiscipline are existential imperatives for our nation.