Economists defend their right to comment

Mutsvangwa is alleged to have made the comments as the official party spokesperson at a Zanu PF press conference held recently.

ZIMBABWE’S economists have defended their freedom to comment on the local economy when a colleague, Gift Mugano, publicly left the national discourse after being intimidated by a Cabinet minister.

In a lengthy post on the micro-blogging site, X (formerly Twitter), Mugano announced that he was desisting from commenting on anything to do with the country’s economy.Mugano said his decision was reached after the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs minister Christopher Mutsvangwa criticised his economic commentaries, saying they were “anti-economic progress”.

Mutsvangwa is alleged to have made the comments as the official party spokesperson at a Zanu PF press conference held recently.“I watched three separate Zanu-PF official pressers including the one which was done today (January 12) and noted with concern incessant reference to my person as a person who is anti- economic progress.

“In today’s presser, in particular, from the 46-52 minute and the last minute of the presser, Mutsvangwa made extensive reference to my name and expressed his or the party’s frustration with my economic commentaries,” Mugano said.

“A presser by a Zanu-PF official, that is, the ruling or governing party cannot be taken lightly. It is serious business.”He continued: “Obviously, at such critical platforms where the governing party engages with the public and as part of its statement, it spent several minutes sharing with the world its frustration with a harmless guy from Chimanimani and call him all sorts of names with so much anger, one has to reflect if it is worth to continue commenting on matters relating to economic issues of our beloved country.”

Mugano highlighted that the Zanu PF-led government is bent on silencing independent voices on the economic discourse.The professor of economics has been highly critical of government policies that have led to a series of macro-economic challenges.

These include power outages, water shortages, falling disposable incomes, shrinking domestic and foreign investment, climate change, increased political risks, burgeoning debt and low employment.

Other top economists, however, have defended their right to comment on economic issues as academics.“There is really nothing to fear,” economist Prosper Chitambara told NewsDay Business.

“Of course, as scholars, we must always endeavour to be factual and balanced, as long as we adhere to these two I think there will be nothing to fear and we must also try to steer clear of partisan politics.“I can probably speak for myself. I can’t speak for others but for me, I never feel any threat or fear because I try to be balanced in terms of my analysis and review. I try to base my analysis on principles of inclusivity, pro-poor and sustainability. That is what has guided my philosophy and interpretation of macro-economic policies.” 

Commenting on the same issue, economist Tony Hawkins said he felt safe when commenting on the state of the economy.“I feel perfectly safe in making comments about the state of the economy especially when I am able to set the record straight by correcting the volume of disinformation that is prevalent today,” he said.

Economists play an important role in an economy through analysing data that includes economic indicators, such as gross domestic product and consumer confidence surveys.They also research the distribution, accessibility and reach of goods and services, to identify potential trends or make economic forecasts.

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