I understand that in the event that China funds Zimbabwe with the $2 billion infrastructure loan, it will be payable over 20 years. I also understand that only Chinese companies will be contracted to the infrastructure deals that have been recently agreed in principle with China subject to viability. Viability here means that Zimbabweans through taxes will be able to pay for the loans.
This means that Zimbabweans will be paying their taxes over the next 20 years at least to China. That is the legacy that President Mugabe will leave us with. We will be feeding Chinese families while ours wallow in poverty, we will be creating jobs for them while our children must look for employment elsewhere, and we will provide business opportunities to their companies while our local companies are closing down.
I have been in fiery debates lately on the recently announced deals with China. I am totally amazed at ZANU (PF) and their audacity to create serious debt at the expense of all of us.
This is my position; the role of the President is to protect the interests of Zimbabweans who pay his salary and maintain his luxurious lifestyle and protection. He mandate is to do whatever is necessary to create jobs for Zimbabweans and ensure that this economy grows as the country develops. On that score he has dismally failed.
In principle there is nothing wrong with us attracting Chinese investment in our economy but this must be done to the benefit of Zimbabwe.
In my opinion, infrastructure development is very important but not that urgent, what is urgent is for us to revive our local productive sector, cut on imports and create jobs. My argument remains that infrastructure development is a result of economic growth and not the other way round. The economy does not grow simply because we have good roads. Of course we need decent roads but investment in roads must be as a result of a growing economy. Our focus must therefore be Zimbabwean jobs first.
As I have said before, we can easily revive this economy by focusing on agriculture as the trigger for further development. It therefore is national priority instead of the Chinese coming here to build roads and cement factories. The hesitance to deal thoroughly with the elephant (i.e. agriculture) in the room is because of the plunder that would be exposed by a land audit, a necessary starting point. In addition there is the issue of compensation of commercial farmers that everyone knows must be done but is being avoided by all.
The benefits to the country from a vibrant agriculture sector are numerous and include food security, employment creation, the rehabilitation of agriculture related infrastructure, exports and the alleviation of rural poverty where 70% of our population resides. In addition our land assets would be of significant value that we can them leverage.
It is becoming clear to me that it is not really the intention of this government to create a modern economy in Zimbabwe. They seem quite content with the status quo as long as they remain in power. That is our tragedy in that, we are unlikely to see the Zimbabwe we want as along as ZANU (PF) stays in government.
Brazil recovered because they focused internally by ensuring that they have a vibrant local business sector that created jobs. They also had a government that spent only what it generated and avoided unnecessary debt. We are doing exactly the opposite.
There seems to be a lot of speculation on the MOUs signed last week and I really would like to have a look at them and see what the conditions are. Clearly the one condition is that Chinese companies get the money so there is nothing to celebrate here.
President Mugabe has been heard complaining of the delays in projects that cost the taxpayer as though this is new. The main reason for that first is that his ministers are not project managers and they continue to interfere with projects in order to have influence on who gets the project. Patronage and greed are our problems and the President knows that but has done nothing about it. I am still looking for a single project that this government has done successfully and on time since 1980.
As far as I am concerned we can build our own dams and roads and power stations. We have the skills and know how the only thing lacking is an economic environment that attracts foreign investors to come to Zimbabwe. Until we do that, we will find that China will take advantage of the lack of competition and therefore give us a raw deal.
When we get into government we will certainly review all these deals and where Zimbabweans do not benefit, we will reverse the deals; the sooner that happens, the better for our children.
Mugabe is going to leave us with a legacy of high debt and Chinese colonization. That is unacceptable. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]Post published in: Analysis