Your guess is as good as mine
WHILE in a queue to buy sugar and mealie-meal the other day I caught snippets of a conversation that made me scratch my head:
MAN: Hey, prices have gone haywire, all because of one man’s policies. How can a person be so out of touch with reality?
WOMAN: …it’s unbelievable. He might be a professor but when it comes to what really counts he is not that sharp.
MAN: You can say that again! He has masterminded one policy disaster after another. But look here; he is making money for himself so in his own world he’s not a fool…
The conversation ended abruptly when the supermarket’s sales manager came out and announced that they had run out of the essential foodstuffs. People in the queue started grumbling and hurling unprintable insults at the manager, whom they accused of holding onto the goods; a trend currently prevalent at most retail outlets.
Your guess, as to which professor the man and woman were referring to in their conversation, is as good as mine.
When basic goods are scarce and when skyrocketing prices spread their grasping tentacles around pauperised ordinary people’s wallets and squeeze continuously, it is high time the government takes a closer look at its policies.
That President Emmerson Mnangagwa is reported to have instructed Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and central bank governor John Mangudya to jointly address the nation on the steps they are taking to mitigate the worsening economic rot therefore comes as no surprise.
Ncube and Mangudya need to restore confidence in the people who have lost faith in the government, which is being likened to an old model truck that is stuck in the mud but still spews thick, black smoke into the atmosphere when its key is turned on, producing a lot of noise — anti-corruption drive, reviving economy and jobs — but doesn’t move an inch.
Poverty-stricken Zimbabweans do not expect Ncube and Mangudya to talk about sanctions and natural disasters this time. And they should not even dwell on the coronavirus, which has exacerbated the economic meltdown, but must stick to bread and butter issues. People expect to hear how the government is intervening to save the situation.
“Prices in shops have gone up and I can no longer afford basics… In order to put food on my family table, I’ve resorted to begging here on the streets of Harare. I implore the government to consider our plight,” said Benevolence Magonda of Epworth recently.
Magonda said she could no longer afford basics such as mealie-meal, soap and cooking oil.
But does the Finance minister have the capacity to bring Zimbabwe back from the brink of collapse?
Many people believe he doesn’t as his announcements in the past have produced toxic results. He needs help because at the end of the day it is the whole leadership that will be held accountable.
Ncube recently wrote to international financial institutions, disclosing that Zimbabwe’s economy was in the doldrums. His desperate pleas were exposed by Africa Confidential, a prestigious London-based newsletter that looks at politics and economics in Africa, which obtained the letters written by the Finance minister to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and African Development Bank (AfDB).
Ncube owned up to the “responsibility for the recent policy missteps during late 2019, which have led to inflation currently running at an annual rate of over 500 percent and with the Covid-19 crisis, the country’s economic woes were set to deepen, hence the desperate need for rescue,” the report said.
The report adds that Ncube’s letters dated April 2 painted a gloomy picture of the local economy.
In a briefing to Parliament recently, the Finance minister said the ever-skyrocketing prices of basic goods in the country were a result of the plummeting local currency on the black market — adding that this was proving difficult to deal with.
He re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar against pleas that conditions to do so were not yet favourable and later reportedly admitted privately that his decision was an experiment that went wrong. The Zimdollar collapse has triggered steep price increases of almost all goods.
Ncube adopted a “managed float” exchange rate regime, abandoning strict control of foreign exchange by the central bank.
New notes have been introduced but still people can’t withdraw cash from the banks. The new Zimbabwe dollar notes have flooded the black market at outrageous premiums. Illegal foreign currency dealers and some mobile networks agents are seen daily waving wads of currency, making a killing.
The economic crisis is deep-seated, but not indelible. With engagement, hard work and transparency, we can resuscitate the economy.