Statements by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube last week that his economic blueprint, Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) had scored several successes, got us thinking.
What is success, really?
When Ncube took over the Finance ministry in 2018 after the November 2017 coup, Zimbabwe was not short of fuel, the country had stable prices and teachers, nurses and other civil servants were religiously reporting for duty as they were relatively happy with the obtaining working conditions.
Prices were stable and work, in its various forms, paid enough for employees to sustain their families.
In fact, in 2018, Zimbabweans never cared to think about the inflation rate.
It was way below 10%, until the professor glided in and force-marched the numbers way up north.
This must not be misconstrued to mean the late former President Robert Mugabe’s regime didn’t destroy this economy.
We are only comparing the situation back then, and now, when teachers cannot retrn to their workstations because all they have worked for in the past months have been rendered useless by relentless inflation, a volatile exchange and skyrocketing prices.
These are just a few examples of what Mthuli found running well when he arrived at the Finance ministry to begin his ruinous reforms where he interfered with a viable multi-currency system with the introduction of a domestic currency.
We were shocked back then in June last year, because basic economics told us that a disaster was in the making.
Production in industries was extremely low when the rushed currency reforms were made.
Exports were very low when the reforms kicked in, and foreign currency reserves at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe were below the recommended three months’ cover.
Under these circumstances, any right-thinking person would have known that we were headed for disaster.
The economy was not ready to sustain its own currency.
But what did we see when the Zimbabwe dollar returned?
The foreign currency that was still in the market immediately disappeared and the black market rate resurfaced. Ncube and his team were then forced to begin the battle to tame the rage, devoting most of their time to plotting how to win the battle.
Elsewhere, the last remaining firms started crumbling because foreign currency shortages had mounted, the power crisis had returned and imported raw materials became difficult to procure. Two years since the TSP came in, it is being wound up and we are a worse off lot.
Workers’ pensions have been destroyed, rural communities are sinking deeper into poverty and everything else is in disarray. Now, correct us if we are wrong. Is this the definition of success?
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