A bigger meltdown is on the way

editorial comment

A STRING of positive data announced by government in December 2020 — some of it sheer exaggeration — had ushered a brief period of relief following the return of turbulence in 2019.

A projected huge inflationary slowdown to 135% by year-end, from 401% in December 2020 and a 7,4% GDP growth, could be sweet news for many Zimbabweans who are living in penury under relentless price rises and rocketing inflation.

Explanations about how these glossy targets would be achieved were not convincing.

But having tamed exchange volatilities through a timely auction system, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube had instilled confidence in some people.

But beyond our wildest imaginations, COVID-19 made fresh inroads, threatening to overrun anything positive that the authorities had planned.

Poor planning and laxity following initial successes against the pandemic brought us where we are today.

Which government, in its right senses, would open borders to a country that is ranked the worst affected in Africa?

Which government, in its right senses, would reopen schools when it was clear that national coffers were dry, and it had no arsenal to tackle a furious surge?

This economy faced many hurdles even before the pandemic hit us.

If the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases does not worry economic planners, then nothing will.

Yet, we doubt they have been moved, given the silence from the Finance and Economic Development ministry.

On Tuesday, the Health and Child Care ministry reported 942 new cases in 24 hours, taking cumulative cases to 23 396.

Over 550 people had succumbed to COVID-19 since March 2020.

This is not mere number crunching. It is a serious health crisis with serious implications on economic growth.

The worry is, while the Health and Child Care ministry has been publishing these chilling numbers, we have seen little movement, if any, from Treasury, especially when it comes to actions that help companies — the life blood of any economy.

When the pandemic teared provinces apart with less precision last year, government struggled to raise only $18 billion it promised to keep firms running.

The worst casualties were reported in the tourism, manufacturing, transportation and mining industries, which were suffocated by huge shrinkages in demand and a global shutdown.

The storms have returned at a more frightening scale, with deaths being reported daily, everywhere.

The temptation, under the circumstances would be to focus attention on the pandemic’s effects, without making efforts to pool resources to fight a bigger meltdown.

Key sectors will be paralysed as resources become scarce and a fresh wave of job losses will add to one million who were rendered jobless last year.

Authorities must come out of deep slumber and spring into action.

A big meltdown is on the way. We call for vigilance and probably for Treasury to come up with a robust fund to prop up businesses whose fortunes continue to sag daily as they struggle to keep afloat.

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw