WHEN the recently appointed Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, opened the parliamentary debate on Zimbabwe’s 2009 Budget, he started by referring to the “severe socio-economic challenges which confront the country”, stating that “at the epicentre of these socio-economic challenges have been unprecedented levels of hyperinflation and declining productive capacity and hence massive deteriorating public service delivery, particularly education, health, sanitation as well as public utilities and infrastructure… givingÂ rise to an unprecedented increase in poverty levels and generalÂ despondency.”
The minister matched this commendably frank, factual and transparent acknowledgement of Zimbabwean realities with an equally frank and realistic recognition that Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to resolve the appalling circumstances and bring about an economic transformation without the assistance of the international community.
In continuing his Budget address to parliament he said “it is imperative that we engage the international community for financial support. Such support is required to augment items in the Budget related to the delivery of urgent public services in health, education, water, sanitation, food security, infrastructure rehabilitation, among others. The international community will also play a critical role in supporting self-liquidating lines of credit required by our industries to restore production levels”.
Amplifying on motivating and sourcing the critically needed international financial support, minister Biti said that “In short, what is required is to create confidence and sculpt a construction that Zimbabwe is in an irreversible paradigm shift.
Over and above the Sadc initiatives underpinned by South Africa, there should be serious engagement with all cooperating partners, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, as well as the African Development Bank, with the objective of restoring the country’s status as a credible recipient of external financial assistance… Hence, as part of this strategy should be an aggressive programme of bilateral engagement with all the key strategic countries”.
A little later in his presentation, the minister identified the critical measures to transform the identified need for international support into reality, stating that “the key pillars include: The rule of law; crafting of a new people-driven constitution; restoration of property rights; restoration of political legitimacy; freedom and liberties; restoration of personal measures; opening up of the media as well as the restoration and re-integration of Zimbabwe into the community of nations”.
A little more than one month later, whilst addressing a joint press conference with the Norwegian Development Minister Erik Solheim, the Minister of Finance effectively reiterated the desperate Zimbabwean need for international support, saying that the inclusive government was set to fail without donor support.
Since the inclusive government came into being, there have been significant indications that much of the international community is sympathetically disposed towards assisting Zimbabwe in bringing about the metamorphosis from destitution and poverty to national wellbeing.
These indications include a Sadc determination to try to facilitate Zimbabwe accessing support packages aggregating to US$8,3 billion, positive statements of potential support from Denmark and Norway and from a number of other donor countries. And the report from the recent IMF mission to Zimbabwe, whilst understandably voicing some considerable concerns, was nevertheless more favourable than any IMF reports in recent years.
Commending various structural reforms which have recently been effected, and describing them as positive, the statement did, however, state that “Going forward, strengthening the investment climate, ensuring protection of property rights” and divers other specified actions “will be essential for increasing domestic and foreign investment”.
Last week, when opening a three-day ministerial retreat, President Robert Mugabe addressed the foremost Zimbabwean need to bring about an urgent and comprehensive economic recovery in order to meet vitally essential rehabilitation of the grievously impoverished and suffering Zimbabwean population. He said that Zimbabwe cannot “indulge in the luxury of engaging in unending theoretical discourse, for our thematic slogan should be resonantly Implementation, Implementation, and Implementation”.
The tragedy is that this praiseworthy contention is not matched by performance and, as yet, virtually none of the economic recovery “key pillars” identified by minister Biti, and as foundation of the Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (Sterp) are being brought into being. Although President Mugabe and Vice President Joice Mujuri have publicly condemned violence and called for its cessation, the violence is continuing, especially so in rural areas and in police action against activists and protestors. Moreover, much of that violence is tacitly or directly motivated by some in senior political positions.
Similarly, although Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai has called for an end to unauthorised, unlawful farm invasions, those invasions are continuing unabated and, in some instances, are actually led by the so-called “guardians of law and order” and, in other instances, those “guardians” turn a blind eye to the invasions and do nothing to contain them.
In like manner, minister Welshman Ncube stated last week that Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) must be respected and honoured, but there is no sign of any governmental intent to do so, including a notable absence in the national Budget of any provision whatsoever for payment of any of the considerable – and grossly overdue – compensation payments that are major liabilities of government.
Although the inclusive government and the presidium are increasingly and commendably saying the right things, being those which should long before have been said and done, most of what is being said is not being married with requisite actions. There appears to be little or no recognition that speech without concomitant deeds and actions will yield nothing.
In the absence of properly and assiduously pursued appropriate actions, international funding (other than the most pronouncedly needed humanitarian aid) will not be forthcoming, Sterp will fail and the suffering of Zimbabweans will increase exponentially.
BY ERIC BLOCH