TOURISM and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has described Zimbabwe’s $5 billion national budget as “mickey mouse” for a country that is endowed with vast natural resources.
Mzembi said the budget was equivalent to that of a university in the United States and that “should shame the country”.
The minister, who was speaking at a reception to mark the start of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) congress in Bulawayo on Wednesday said the low budget sent wrong signals to international lenders and creditors.
“Are you really sure that Zimbabwe can run on a $5 billion budget? Clearly we are worth more than that,” he said.
“As a country, collectively with all the natural endowment we sing about, we claim to be number two in platinum reserves, hold 40% of world alluvial diamonds, number five in gold production, number two in coal and we have gas, but we are still poor.
“I gave a public lecture at the State University of Ohio in the US.
“They don’t have all these natural resources, but their source of revenue are the students and they enrol 65 000.
“It has an annual budget of $5,5 billion which is bigger than that of Zimbabwe. We have a micky mouse dream. We should think big.”
Mzembi said Zimbabwe needed a radical policy shift to turn around the economy and one of the solutions to woes the tourism sector is facing would be to allow more airlines to fly into the country.
“We should open up international air traffic at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport and it does not require money,” he said.
“All it takes is liberalising our policies and mindset shift.
“Our visa regime is stringent. If we were applying sanctions to source markets in the past, we should look into that and remove the visa regime.
“If India, with a population of more than 1 billion, relaxed restrictions what about Zimbabwe with a population of 14 million people. What are we afraid of?”
The minister warned that any delays in removing restrictions would complicate efforts to turnaround the economy.
He revealed that next week he will be in London to commission the Zimbabwe-Zambia pilot uni-visa regime to international source markets.
The inter-State launch would be on November 28. A uni-visa regime has been on the cards for years and the coming to fruition of the pilot project is set to compel other countries in the region to come on board.
The government is targeting five million tourist arrivals by 2020 with expected earnings of $5 billion annually through the implementation of the open skies policy.
Meanwhile, Mzembi said the implementation of the government’s economic blueprint — the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation (ZimAsset) — was in limbo.
“What we are doing now is not what we promised during campaigns,” he said.
“When we go to congress I want every leader, be it a minister, to stand in front of delegates and tell people what they have done in fulfilment of ZimAsset.
“That was our promise to the people, but we are doing nothing.”