By Daniel Itai – The Zimbabwe Daily
Harare, Zimbabwe – Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti as well as two of the country’s renowned economists Eddie Cross and Dr.Tapiwa Mashakada have raised concerns over the economic wellbeing of the country.
The southern African country is country in a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has put many economic sectors of the country in jeopardy.
“We have overreacted to this virus very few people are dying from the virus and the lockdown has been very damaging to our economy.
My own view is to reopen our economy as quickly as possible, testing is impossible on any scale and we have to use the approach adopted in Israel which is home nursing with assistance. For the safely net I would go for a food coupon valued at allowing the vulnerable to buy a basic basket of goods at any retail outlets. Subsidies and price controls do not work,” said Eddie Cross.
Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti also shared the same sentiment fingering the country’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the economic turmoil in the country.
“Since Zimbabwe‘s military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF has taken Zimbabwe to new and unprecedented depths of collapse, capture and coercion.
In under two years of his rule, Zimbabwe has back-slided into a comatose, tin-pot republic dominated by massive economic mismanagement.
Unemployment is now at 95 percent, and inflation is over 700 percent, the world’s 2nd highest rate after Venezuela.
At the epicentre of Mr. Mnangagwa‘s failed economics, are two things, the first is the inability of the government to live within its own means.
Billions have been spent outside the budget leading to perennial huge budget deficits that have forced the Central Bank to print money to cover the gap.
The second cause of failure is government’s mismanagement of the exchange rate. In 2019 the government prematurely introduced its own currency without sound economic fundamentals to back it up, the new Zimbabwean dollar collapsed resulting in serious market distortions and an explosion in black-market activities.
In the shops, basic commodities are in short supply, particularly sugar, cooking fat and the country’s staple mealie-meal.
Fuel queues now snake for kilometres. There have been incessant power cuts lasting up to 18 hours, particularly before Zimbabwe imposed its COVID-19 lockdown at the end of March.
As the economy implodes, Mr. Mnangagwa and his lot are presiding over the most corrupt and most extractive period since Zimbabwe’s independence 40 years ago.
Billions of dollars are siphoned off from the state, in vehicles and companies linked to senior leaders in the ZANU- PF regime, their families and business associates.
Even as the lives of average Zimbabweans turn to dust, the elite continues to milk the system through their control of foreign exchange and money supply, agricultural subsidies which they call command agriculture, fuel procurement, the mining of commodities notably diamonds, platinum, chrome and gold and public sector procurement,” said the former Finance Minister.
However, Dr. Mashakada who was also once in the cabinet as the Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion said government was supposed to phase in sectors of the economy.
“The relaxation of the economy should be done on condition the people follow COVID-19 prevention protocols published by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.
The opening of the entire economy must be measured. It must be gradual and should be guided by the progress in the containment of the pandemic. A reckless opening up of all the sectors of the economy without due diligence is a recipe for disaster,” said Dr. Mashakada.
Zimbabwe is amongst the few countries in the region which still have rigid lockdown regulations.