BUSINESS and economic players from across the economy have called for the incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his new government to quickly address the pressing issues plaguing the economy to kick-start the recovery process.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA / FIDELITY MHLANGA
With rising inflation, shortages of cash, high premiums, low production and exports, and a snail’s pace movement in amending laws, economic stakeholders have called for these issues to be urgently addressed.
Speaking to NewsDay yesterday, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Christopher Mugaga said the incoming President must endeavour to depart from Zanu PF party position and dwell on economic policies aimed at improving the country’s fortunes.
“To expect change because [former President Robert] Mugabe has left overnight is expecting too much. We are not sure that whoever is coming after Mugabe would depart from party position in terms of economic policy,” he said.
“While there is a constituency of people who believe in empowerment, there is also a constituency which doesn’t believe in it. It’s a conundrum. The greatest fear is entitlement by a number of shareholders who will believe they deserve rewarding and impunity. But this can weaken or slow down the pace of economic growth.”
Mugaga said the country’s new leader should put a paradigm shift in the way of doing things by appointing technocrats to Cabinet.
“So whoever is coming must make sure that he departs from the party position, for instance, for long, Cabinet has been made up of Members of Parliament. He should put technocrats and not only depend on the august House. The incoming leader must be prepared to be criticised and expect that it can’t be politics as usual. The person should deal with corruption, nepotism and parastatal rot,” he said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu said going forward, there was need for political stability, especially at the highest level of leadership.
“Great focus should be placed on reviving the economy, industrialisation to create jobs and produce more goods locally, all this while advancing an export agenda premised on normalised internal, regional and international relations,” he said.
“There is need to focus on enhancing competitiveness and ease of doing business. CZR will embrace and work with the new government to ensure policy consistency and address critical issues like foreign currency shortages. There is great need for inclusivity and promotion of peace and development while eradicating regionalism, corruption and build social trust and confidence.”
The ones who have felt the brunt of the economic decay in the country are the consumers who have been struggling with low disposable incomes.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Rosemary Siyachitema said with the new political dispensation, speed was needed in the enactment of the consumer protection law.
“We are calling for the enactment of the consumer protection law. I think this continues to be paramount because consumers have gone for a long time without any protective legislation when we look at what good practice is. Consumers need prices to stay stable, affordable, goods have to be accessible, and prices need to be fair. We do not want to continue seeing these unprecedented price increments in the supermarkets or retail shops,” she said.
“We want money in our pockets to mean something. The United States dollar is worth quite a bit, yet we have seen it being eroded over a period of time. We still ask for the same things and they do not change so we still just make the same demands. We need swipe machines to be accessible and in all places so that people can be able to transact, bank charges to be much fairer than what they are. We need quality and standards.”
She said the legislation would deal with a number of issues plaguing consumers.
Former Zimbabwe Investment Authority chairman Nigel Chanakira said Mugabe’s resignation should encourage a relook at the investment impediments in the country such as property rights.
“Mugabe is what I would call a Pharaoh. He was a shrewd, probably the shrewdest African politician in terms of his conduct. In other words, they (foreign investors) feared him and did not know how to handle him. So, we now look at investment, the whole issue that the war was fought for, the vote, as well as land, which in itself is one of the key panacea for investment, in a sense that deals with property rights,” he said.
“So, if you now infringe on the right of title, you are kind of violating investment principles in protecting investment and that was the whole anchor of why Zimbabwe became a pariah State for foreign direct investment. It was accentuated further because people took away the right to farm title or land ownership. So once that was taken away, people walked away with nothing.”
“If you take away property rights, as was done with the land issue without compensation in one form or the other, and you go on to accentuate the position by amending mining rights, you would have touched on two very key attractions which foreign investment seeks in Africa,” he said.
Mugabe’s leadership was marred by policy inconsistency, violation of property rights as well as uncertainty, which all drove away potential investors.
Federation of Farmers’ Union president Wonder Chabikwa said farmers expected the new President to increase the agricultural budget allocation to return the country to its former bread basket status in Africa.
“As farmers, our requirements have not changed. Naturally, in terms of budget allocation, agriculture must be allocated 10% of the budget and that has not been happening. Prioritisation must be given to agriculture and that has not been happening. We need that so that the country goes back to being the bread basket of Africa,” he said.
Chabikwa said if the new leader were to bring a vibrant agriculture sector, the country’s manufacturing sector would also grow and generate vast foreign currency receipts and employment opportunities.
“As farmers we would want to be given our due respect. Long back when CFU [Commercial Farmers’ Union] talked about key issues, they were listened to, but now that was not happening. Once agriculture performs to its potential, everything will respond to it. This means manufacturing will perform and vendors will be wiped out, as there will be job opportunities. If our manufacturing sector starts performing, all companies in the country will start to export and we will not struggle to get foreign currency,” he said.
Chabikwa added that farmers also wanted to be seconded into boards which are linked to agriculture, unlike what was happening where people were appointed based on nepotism.
As Mnangagwa comes in, business and the economy at large will be looking to him to address these issues.