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China’s lesson and response to Zimbabwe

Opinion & Analysis
The expected cash bailout from China did not materialise and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has a script on what happened in China, different from earlier expectations.

The expected cash bailout from China did not materialise and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has a script on what happened in China, different from earlier expectations.

Rashweat Mukundu

Zimbabwe never asked for cash after all, we are told. This, however, goes against the whole story on how ZimAsset needs funding and how the government needs budgetary support.

Now that China will support “mega” deals in infrastructure development, mainly energy, roads and agriculture, the fact, however, still remains that Chinamasa and his ministry are broke, “mega” deals or no “mega” deals.

The raft of measures to squeeze every cent out of citizens through increased taxes on airtime, petrol and diesel and second-hand car imports are the true consequences of failing to get money from China.

The responses we have been getting from the minister on the “true” story from China are rather false or offside. The true story of what happened in China is reflected in the minister’s Mid-term Fiscal Policy Statement, that is the government is broke, cannot pay its workers, cannot fund anything including buying toilet paper in government offices, hence attempts to get money where supposedly it is, that is airtime and second-hand Japanese car imports.

The Mid-term Fiscal Policy Statement is the minister’s response to the China failure, but more importantly a reflection of the dearth of thinking within the Finance ministry and whole government set-up.

There is no reflection on the long-term economic planning by the minister. One is not sure, therefore, whether this country will be run on our purchases of airtime and fuel. What about industrial growth among other issues?

And if petrol and airtime can only support government salaries, what of education and health? In any case, Chinamasa and his team including those at the top are not prepared to sacrifice their own benefits that include the fuel guzzlers that government ministers move around in.

We are not informed how the men and women at the top will tighten their belts like the rest. Rather the burden is pushed down to citizens who have no capacity to refuse and who are not consulted.

It’s suffer continue, as others would say. Being among those who were distressed by the likelihood of China giving Zimbabwe cash amid all loopholes to loot that money, I must appreciate China’s approach to Zimbabwe, the key message being let’s talk development and not just cash.

The Chinese simply told our government to think a little bit harder on why they need money and what the real interests of Zimbabwe are. The Chinese deals are, therefore, not “mega” in my assessment, but pointers by the Chinese as to where the Zanu PF-led government should be going, that is, thinking of national development.

The Chinese government is not necessarily one of the most admirable governments in the word, but if there is one lesson from China, as Chinamasa noted, the Chinese do work hard and they have developed a national discipline of sorts in which the corrupt are dealt with no matter one’s position in the party or government.

To fully embrace the Look East policy, we challenge Zanu PF to follow the example of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in dealing with corruption, only and only then can Zanu PF show some seriousness.

Talk is cheap and we await action. The Chinese lesson is that focus must be on achieving set economic goals with ruthlessness unmatched, and that nothing, including party officials, must stop this goal.

Zanu PF has no capacity to discipline itself and has over the years degenerated into sycophancy that we now see with this whole succession debate. In essence unless Zanu PF changes fast, then this country is set back to the Stone Age.

While not agreeing to part with cash, the Chinese taught Zanu PF to focus on what matters most, which is economic development, and the few projects that China will support are almost an attempt to hand-hold Zanu PF and show the way.

As compared to our needs, the deals are not “mega” as Zimbabwe needs billions and billions, be it in deals or cash, to resuscitate the economy and repair the damage of the past decade.

It is false, therefore, to say ZimAsset has finally come to life simply because we will expand our electricity power generation, fund agriculture and build a few more dams from Chinese loans. The truth rather is the so-called deals are what Zimbabwe, had corruption been dealt with, could have done by and for itself.

Another dimension to this matter is whether Zimbabwe really needs loans from China to develop its irrigation projects and expand power generation.

Has the Zanu PF government been prudent with the resources from diamonds and gold among others? How much did we really lose and continue loosing through minerals smuggling, by the admission of the State media, that some powerful individuals are busy smuggling out of Zimbabwe?

The lesson from China is that Zanu PF must focus on its own capacities to develop Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, as already stated, many of the “mega” projects could and can still be funded locally if the corruption within this country is dealt with.

Another lesson from China is that economic development goes with orderly political processes whether democratic or controlled.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is the seventh leader of China after Chairman Mao. More importantly, the CCP has set a smooth transition process that maintains its stranglehold on power and order as well a vision for China.

Whether one agrees with the CCP style of governance or not, at least they do what they say. On the other hand, Zanu PF is in sixes and sevens on managing its transition, the party cannot even agree on who leads its youths.

Another key lesson from China is move with times, change leaders and infuse new ideas. Xin Jinping is 61, need I say more?