EX-FINANCE minister Tendai Biti says it is too early to expect the economic fundamentals to have changed since the Zanu PF
administration took over, but lack of confidence in the government has caused the economic crisis in the country.
In an interview on Monday, Biti, who is also MDC-T secretary-general, said the new government which assumed power three months ago had the challenge of engendering trust in the economy.
“I think that the fundamental problem that we are having right now is the issue of confidence,” Biti said. “The economic fundamentals do not change in four months. There is no more trust and that lack of trust is then exacerbated, it is then compounded, by people doing things that are questionable.”
Biti said failure by the new Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa to announce the National Budget was an example of factors that dampened confidence in government.
“Why not present the budget in the year that it has to be presented?” Biti queried. “People question you. They question you because a budget is a confidence instrument, it is an instrument of management, companies wait for you to announce the budget because the tax year begins in January. If you are now going to announce the tax measures on the 20th of January, people say, ‘hang on a minute you are now making us have a problem doing our books and so on’.”
He said it was important to realise that Zimbabwe was a small player in global economics and antagonising the big players would merely result in its downfall.
“Take Foreign Direct Investment for instance, the biggest recipient of FDI is China. Any computer you have, that camera you have is made in China. So you are saying you are looking East, but the East is looking at the West and very much inextricably part of the West.
“So people look at you and say what are you? A $4 billion dollar budget, a country with a GDP of $9 billion. What is that? Less than the budget of Walmart in the United States of America, that is less than the budget of the Spar franchise in South Africa.”
He said the government should not sacrifice the lives of its citizens by merely claiming to be a sovereign state.
Biti said piecemeal attempts to address relations with the West such as the attempt by Chinamasa last week to court Zimbabwe’s enemies asking them to forget about the past and build lasting economic relations would not do the trick.
“Talk is cheap. Walk the talk. Show us that you are now going to be inclusive. People look at President Mugabe, so one warrior cannot pretend to have demobilised when the general has not demobilised.”
Biti said there was need for government to “turn the arrows of hatred into ploughs of inclusivity”.
Meanwhile, Biti on Monday launched his own Tendai Biti law firm after a five-year stint in government. Biti, who has 18 years experience as a lawyer, said the law firm where he horned his skills, Honey and Blackenberg, had become his “second home” to him, but felt it was prudent to set up his own company.
After graduating from the University of Zimbabwe‘s law school in 1989, Biti joined Honey and Blackenberg where he became the youngest partner at 26.
“I am making available to the public 18 years of experience as a lawyer, the only one in Zimbabwe who has also been the Minister of Finance,” he said.
“I have experience and I am on first name basis with the leaders of various important institutions like the World Bank, Preferential Trade Area Bank and the African Development Bank. I was involved in the process of making the new Constitution which has a Bill of Rights, but as a lawyer I am itching to test it. During my tenure as Finance minister there were a lot of laws that were made under my ministry. That’s part of the experience that the public can tap into.”
Biti said he does not consider himself a politician, but rather an “activist”.
He joins other MDC-T senior officials who have gone back to law practice since the party’s crushing electoral defeat to Zanu PF including party spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, former deputy justice minister Obert Gutu and former constitutional affairs minister, Eric Matinenga.