Fixing Zimbabwe’s ruins

I DON’T think it’s far-fetched to call a country once known as the bread basket of Southern Africa a fallen giant.

I don’t think it’s far-fetched to call a country whose currency was once stronger than the British pound a fallen giant.

I found myself thinking how the mighty Zimbabwe has fallen after reading the latest Global Economic Prospects Report by the World Bank.

This is a report where the global bank looks at economic prospects of the world as well as individual countries.

To put it differently, it is in this report that you find the who’s who of the global economy.

In this report you get to read about the world economic powerhouses such as the United States and the world’s emerging economic powerhouses such as China, as well as frontier markets such as Nigeria.

Sadly, though, you don’t find Zimbabwe being discussed in detail like other countries. All you get to read about Zimbabwe are the gross domestic product growth estimates and the current account balances.

Even the graphs on inflation, exchange rates and tax revenues exclude Zimbabwe.

The report has a section on “policy challenges” faced by sub-Saharan countries.

In the section, the report gives some advice: “Governments in the region should pursue policies that preserve economic and financial stability.

“In view of the heightened risks in the outlook, the need for governments to act as a steadying force is paramount.”

While this might be sound advice for Zimbabwe, it is countries like Zambia, among others, that are mentioned by name.

Is this what happens when giants fall — no one mentions you by name?

It is now not a secret what the Zimbabwean government needs to do to take the country out of its current economic quagmire.

In fact, there is a growing understanding that our laws, especially the ones on the use of land and indigenisation and economic empowerment, need to be changed.

But just whispering about the changes is not enough to bring back much-needed investor confidence. Just at the start of the new year, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the government would early in 2015 pronounce new business policies aimed at relaxing indigenisation laws.

True to the promise, government announced that line ministries must issue a certificate of compliance with indigenisation laws to the business concerned no later than 14 working days, a good move if we are to improve the ease of doing business.

This was followed up by some more good news, this time from Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, who said the government now allows contract farming and joint ventures with partners of choice, whether black or white.

While this is good news by any standards, I think the platforms used and the extent to which the statements were put forward leave much to be desired.

The issues of land and empowerment are easily in the top-five reasons why Zimbabwe’s economy is in such a deplorable state.

Changing such laws is not something you just mention in passing at your farm in central Zimbabwe, like the vice-president did.

It’s not something that you just put in a government gazette before going back to sleep.

Take the issue of land use, for instance. While Mombeshora said the government always allowed joint ventures, President Robert Mugabe is on record as saying: “Don’t enter contract farming with whites, it’s a dangerous, dangerous arrangement that we don’t want.”

With such strong statements by the president, investors can be forgiven for being sceptical about Mombeshora’s statement,
made when Mugabe was on holiday.

So if the government is serious about changing these important laws, the announcement should not be whispered to the guy next door.

If we are serious about changing the fortunes of the fallen giant called Zimbabwe, we must shout that there is change until our voices are hoarse.

Considering the damage caused by these laws, this is something that requires road shows across the globe!

— Fin24

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