ZimAsset collapse: Opposition backs Zimra boss complaint

OPPOSITION politicians have rallied behind the country’s tax chief, backing his lament that the government – critically short of cash but still an insatiable spender - was showing shocking apathy in dealing with the country’s economic crisis.

Biti
Biti

Speaking to legislators last week, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) Commissioner-General, Gershem Pasi, also complained that the Zanu PF administration was displaying unmitigated myopia regarding the vendors’ crisis spawned by the economic crunch.

Spot on, said MDC Renewal leader and former finance minister, Tendai Biti. He was also supported by opposition legislator and economic commentator, Eddie Cross.

“As long as we still have that man called Robert Mugabe, this country is going nowhere; as long as we have got those clowns in Zanu PF, this country is going nowhere. So Pasi is right,” Biti told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview.

Zanu PF launched the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) in 2013 as part of its political campaign platform and post-vote developmental and initiative ahead of key elections it won resoundingly that year.

Requiring funding well north of $20 billion, the ambitious programme was expected to – between 2013 and 2018 – dramatically pull the country of its economic morass, in the process delivering more than two million new jobs.

But two years into President Mugabe’s latest five-year term, some two million people are estimated to be daily flooding the country’s city centres, trying to eke out a living as vendors due to the lack of formal jobs.

Ministers now hardly speak of ZimAsset as the proposed infrastructural development projects fail to take off due to lack of funding despite administration claims of mega cash deals with China.

The administration appears more consumed by fighting over the 91-year-old Mugabe succession which has seen several ministers and top ruling party officials being dismissed.

A frustrated Pasi complained before a parliamentary committee about the government’s “laid back” attitude in addressing the economic crisis, saying implementation of ZimAsset had effectively stalled.

Pasi’s lament was, in part, forced by the pressure he is under to raise money for a ravenous government which spends without let even as its tax base has virtually crashed with the collapse of hundreds of companies.

“We need to address this (ZimAsset implementation) issue to the extent that it should be given the urgency that it deserves,” said the Zimra boss.

“Sometimes I feel that as Zimbabweans we are too laid back, we believe things will right themselves at an appropriate time.”

New economy

Apparently short of ideas on how to revive the collapsing industry and lacking the resources to provide financial support where needed, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa lauded the emergence of what he described as a new economy – one based on informal traders.

Thousands of the vendors have besieged city centres creating unsightly scenes that have forced the alarmed government to seek to drive them out while leaning on local authorities to invest in proper vending facilities.

However, Pasi said the approach was short-sighted and a waste of scant recourses.

“We are creating a generation which may never know what formal employment is all about and that generation is wasted investment,” he told MPs.

“We will put a lot of money trying to make sure that vendors are accommodated but when we have created employment as we must, we would have built a lot of white elephants.”

He added: “We (once created) Export Processing Zones and then we abandoned them because they did not yield the desired results.

“So now I see we are almost repeating the same thing and we are likely going to see the same results.”

Biti and Cross agreed.

“Zanu PF is clueless about vending,” the former finance minister told NewZimbabwe.com.

“We are now making vending a virtue which it is not. What we need is an entire new matrix of the economic direction and vision in this country.

“How do we reindustrialise, how do we give people formal jobs; because a vendor does not want to sell tomatoes.”

Eddie Cross added: “I think Mr Pasi was largely correct,” he said.

“The emergence of massive street vending is a response to the current economic situation in the country. It can only be short to medium term.

“It can’t be a long term feature of our economy in our economy. Once our wider economy starts recovering and employment picks up I think vending will reduce in size and importance.”

The Bulawayo South MP said Zanu PF has the capacity, in terms of talent, to realise the error of its ways but that this group’s ideas were being suppressed by their more powerful comrades.

“There are a lot of very clever people in Zanu PF. It’s just unfortunate that they don’t seem to control what happens on the ground at the present time.”

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