I assume that many of ourreaders watched the movie The Titanic where, as the ship sank, the ship’s orchestra continued playing as if nothing was happening. For me, that is what our Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa is doing — playing a symphony that things will be alright yet we all know the real situation.
This quote by Norman Mailer cannot be more relevant: “Then there was the law of nature, so cruel and just that we must change or else pay more to remain the same.”
It is delusion to say that the Zimbabwe economy will grow in 2016 in the face of increasing unemployment, shrinking disposable incomes and aggregate demand, mass migration and erratic energy and water supplies. The 2,7% growth predicted by Chinamasa in his budget statement is more of a wish than a real probability.
It is highly unlikely that agriculture and mining will pick up significantly in 2016 given that there is nothing that has fundamentally changed in how we run these sectors and the fact that commodity prices are likely to remain subdued.
The economy is contracting and we are likely to face serious hunger issues next year given that once more, the Agriculture minister has failed to turn around the sector over many years of complacency and lies. If we add the ill-considered noise from Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, the Zanu PF team is certainly not contributing to any likelihood of economic recovery in 2016.
The allocation of huge sums of money to the Central Intelligence Organisation through the President’s Office, the police through Home Affairs and the army through the Ministry of Defence is indicative of a regime that is anxious and worried. Rightly so because Zimbabweans are tired of the lack of seriousness in addressing the pressing social and economic issues, especially our youths.
Interestingly enough, Chinamasa acknowledges that we have “bottlenecks frustrating the economy that include infrastructure gaps, lack of liquidity, inefficient parastatals, low savings and rising corruption in both the private and public sector”, but proceeds to do nothing about it.
In fact, as Finance minister he really does not have much political say. Our problem remains that President Robert Mugabe refuses to acknowledge that it is time to hand over power so that we can open a new chapter in Zimbabwe. As long as that is the case, expect things to get worse before there can be any signs of economic recovery.
I am certain that those in Zanu PF know that without thoroughly dealing with the land issue, private property and a fundamental change in the investment climate, nothing will change, but they dare not start that conversation while Mugabe is in charge.
Zimbabwe is in a crisis mode and needs an extraordinary approach to getting things right. The expectations that the International Monetary Fund will rescue us are misplaced. We are in need of a fundamental paradigm shift on how we run this economy and what we imagine its potential to be.
No economy grows without significant investment in its productive capacity, no economy grows from importing consumer goods, no economy grows without the rule of law and the respect of private property in critical sectors such as agriculture. No economy that is bleeding its skills base can hope to create a sustainable base for future growth. Finally, no economy grows with political uncertainty as this has a negative impact on country risk.
We need to re-invent Zimbabwe in order to create a new economy that meets the aspirations of all and not only the narrow aspirations of Zanu PF cronies. We can never claim to be doing alright when the majority are getting poorer by the day and there is no hope for the millions of our youth who remain unproductive.
We are in an emergency situation and we must see the government acknowledging this. In my opinion, Zimbabwe needs immediate rescue of about $10 billion to revive agriculture and industry. This will only come our way if we repackage our value proposition and demonstrate to the market that we are indeed serious about change.
We must immediately put together an inclusive technical team to run government and this team must have the full mandate to do whatever is necessary to turn things around now.
One condition must be the establishment of a government of national unity because as long as things stay the way they are, we cannot have any serious talk to any funders.
Other countries have turned their situations around mainly because the political leadership realised that the country comes first. I doubt that this is the sentiment within Zanu PF and we are likely to see no significant changes in leadership even at their conference this month.
We are faced with a serious low road scenario for 2016 especially if there are no leadership changes in Zanu PF at the conference. The economy will definitely collapse in 2016 and the outcomes of that could be mass action and food riots.
Could this be the reason why Chinamasa has given more money to the security sector in his budget?
There is no way out of this quagmire except acceptance by Zanu PF that they have failed and that only an inclusive and new approach could create a window of opportunity for us all to get out of this mess which they have created.
Vince Musewe is an independent economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org