Nothing but a big, Asian tuck-shop

I was talking to a group of students the other day on our trade deficit, which is sitting at $3, 3 billion. According to Zimstats, Zimbabwe’s trade deficit with key trading partners is becoming worse. The country’s exports for March declined to $188,7 million from $260,7 million the prior month.

After South Africa, Zimstats reported that the next leading export destination was Mozambique which imported $26,1 million worth Zimbabwean goods and services followed by the United Arab Emirates at $19 million; Israel at $9,4 million and Zambia at $9,1 million. The Chinese market continues to disappoint at a mere $47 000 worth of imports from Zimbabwe.

With regard to imports, except for South Africa, the leading import market for Zimbabwe was Singapore – $112 million. This was followed by China, India, Mozambique, Zambia and Japan with imports valued at $36,7 million, $22,3 million, $15,4 million, $14,3 million and $11,million respectively.

Clearly we are in trouble because 40% of our imports are non-essential goods and our look East policy has resulted in us buying more from them than them from us. This is why I am not happy with China, it appears that their so called all-weather friendly relationship with Zimbabwe is more about them than us – yet we are the ones who need to be exporting more to them.

The trade deficit indicates the extent to which we have deindustrialised Zimbabwe and nobody should be proud of that. We are effectively exporting jobs and creating massive unemployment, which Chinamasa insists on calling the “new economy”. What a joke. How can a government celebrate the decimation of the economy and export of jobs to Asia?

Add the $10 billion foreign debt and the fact that we as a nation do not save enough money for reinvestment into our own economy, you can now appreciate why Zimbabwe is a de facto failed state that can only recover through shock treatment.

That shock treatment requires a radical change in economic policy, particularly so that we can attract other people savings to enable us to re-industrialise. You then get a minister destroying confidence through the Telecel debacle. We are in trouble and unfortunately we do not have the people to get us out of that trouble through sound policies.

I have said before that ZimAsset is a pipedream, a delusion manufactured through a cut and paste exercise. It is like the devil promising you eternal life in heaven – it’s not going to happen.

Even if it had a chance of happening, it will mean that we would need to attract $30 billion of new money into the economy. Yet we cannot protect the property of foreign investors as we continually see not only in agriculture but in industry too.

There has been a call for us to introduce our own national currency and to me that is our only solution – but not now. We cannot trust a Reserve Bank that prints TB’s without a board of directors in place to look after our national interest.

I am very impressed on what Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) is doing to sensitise citizens on the importance of national debt management and why we should reject the RBZ sanitisation bill. It is refreshing to meet fellow Zimbabweans who just want things to be done right.

At their workshop recently, I suggested that we take this issue to the constitutional court because adoption of that bill is not only against the constitution with regard to the right of access to information, but is downright abuse of our taxes – which is a fundamental breach of trust between a government and its citizens.

If the government of Zimbabwe is not accountable to its citizens, how can it be accountable to foreign investors or those foreign institutions that we owe money? The financial stress that this regime has caused to all and sundry will need national healing before we can become a normal society again.

Right now the whole nation is waiting for June 10 by-elections and after that, we will be waiting for 2018 elections – without any significant change. We jump from election to election as if things are going to change.

I am anxiously waiting for the national convergence conference where we all agree on what we must do now and the more we delay this, the worse things will become.

I think slowly it is dawning on many Zimbabweans that if we do nothing we must not expect miracles. It is our responsibility to change things and I hope we shall all gather enough courage soon to act in unity to say zvakwana!

As for the recent Afrobarometer “survey” that suggests otherwise I think we should look at it from whence it comes. We’ve got problems.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

Post published in: Economy

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