Candid Comment: Manufactured crisis to enrich politicians, cronies

AfDB’s paper looked at the region’s purchasing power parities in relation to exchange rates.

This week, an African Development Bank (AfDB) report rated Zimbabwe as Africa’s most expensive country.

It means the cost of living in Zimbabwe is punishing.

It is far higher than the region’s conflict flashpoints and war zones - where goods are looted by warlords and militia, triggering grinding shortages and steep price hikes.

AfDB’s paper looked at the region’s purchasing power parities in relation to exchange rates.

Zimbabwe is followed by Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Seychelles, and South Africa.

It is important to remember that even if these countries were bundled in the same league as Zimbabwe, economies like South Africa have well developed industries, which present investment and employment opportunities.

Consumers in such economies have disposable incomes. Their toil is not in vain. They earn living wages. Investors are assured of profits and dividends.

In contrast, Zimbabwe remains in gloom.

As the cost-of-living rockets, until recently underpinned by a currency that crashed by more than 500% on the black-market last year, higher numbers of people have no hope.

Companies are making serious cutbacks on staffing levels, and are winding down production levels. It is a delicate but sad mix of circumstances. And for now, there is little hope of immediate respite.

The drought tearing through the region has further complicated things, with prices continuing their upward trajectory while people’s sources of income are diminishing.

Some reports suggest up to 50% of the country’s population is living in extreme poverty.

Along with AfDB’s report emerged more sombre statistics from the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH).

The report highlighted the terrifying deterioration of Zimbabwe’s health delivery system. Titled ‘Position Paper on National Health Insurance’, CWGH’s paper warned about the ramifications of the prohibitive cost of emergency and specialist services, inadequate funding and ‘gross public under investments’, which all lead to the high healthcare costs confronting Zimbabweans.

The sad thing is, politicians — the people entrusted with fixing these myriad problems - fly out to access world class medical attention. It is the poor who ‘continue to bear the highest burden of diseases and experience high levels of financially crippling healthcare costs’, as CWGH puts it.

In short, Zimbabwe’s hyped ease of doing business reforms have flopped under politicians’ watch.

High costs of production in industries lead to steep prices, which is the genesis of the problems that the poor face today.

But again, many of the industries today belong to Zimbabwe’s politicians and their cronies. Enough evidence has unfolded this week, pointing to the possibility that this is a manufactured crisis meant to help politically linked companies profit at the expense of the poor.

Zimbabwe’s poor are being milked.



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