In the Deep End: No Rescue Miracles Expected From Chinamasa

By Prince Tongogara

Harare, December 18, 2013 – Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has the unenviable task of delivering his first post July 31 general elections national budget on Thursday amid growing economic malaise characterised by an agonising liquidity crunch, declining industrial production and  festering political instability.

Chinamasa’s budget statement coming less than a week before Christmas is not likely to bring any cheers to weary workers and peasants in general.

People are increasingly finding it difficult to withdraw their savings from banks especially the indigenous institutions.

The majority of workers’ wages and salaries are now way far below the poverty datum line (PDL) of $540 per month.

The country has insufficient and erratic supplies of water and electricity that is driving the closure of many companies and still drive families deeper into poverty.

All this is in addition to poor roads, defunct railway systems, unreliable public transport system and expensive telecommunication services.

The struggling government is still channeling an unsustainable 70 percent of its revenue to pay wages and salaries for the country’s 230 000 public servants.

It remains a sad fact that the government lacks the political will to cut off more than 75 000 ghost workers earning without really knowing where they work or what they do, according to a government audit carried during the tenure of the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Last week’s Zanu PF conference came up with no comprehensive economic policy that can inspire both the public and the market that the ruling party can save the country from the abyss.

In short, Zanu PF despite its more than two-thirds majority in Parliament is a party swimming in the deep end.

Many Zimbabweans have been left wondering how Chinamasa will address the concerns of his principal who at the conference played up political rhetoric on increasing civil servants’ wages without mentioning the source of the revenue to fund that.

“That is why we say the budget must tell a new story that those who work must be paid well, paid not below the Poverty Datum Line, but above the Poverty Datum Line, beginning with the level of the Poverty Datum Line,” Mugabe said in an address to his supporters.

Analysts immediately tore into Mugabe’s false bravado of turning around the economy.

Zanu PF in its economic blue-print dubbed ZimAsset claims that the economy will grow by an ambitious 7.3 percent in 2014. The policy is hinged on foreign direct investment but Zanu PF is still spewing the indigenisation rhetoric that further frightens and chases away investors.

Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza, says Zanu PF is economically illiterate and is daydreaming.

Mandaza said: “One of the biggest failures of the Zimbabwean government is illiteracy. Our leadership is largely economic illiterate including Mugabe himself. We need people who know what they are talking about.”

Tendai Biti, the former Finance Minister and MDC-T secretary-general said the country was on its knees and can hardly finance its operations with the dwindling revenues into treasury.

“As a matter of fact, government is in de facto shutdown due to lack of revenue,” Biti said. 

Analysts agree that ZimAsset is a mere ‘political statement’ devoid of inspiring economic revival.

Chinamasa’s budget statement presentation which will be broadcast live on the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation may go down as the biggest ‘non-event of the year 2013.’