There are no silver bullets or quick fixes to Zimbabwe’s economic problems. Reform, hard work and patience are the only solutions, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in Brussels yesterday.
“We are undertaking a shared journey towards a better and more secure future. The road is long, winding and at times bumpy,” he told the European Conservatives and Reformists group.
“But there is no other way. This is the road to an upper-middle-income economy, ala Vision 2030, and if we travel it together, with patience and purpose, we will realise our vision.”
Ncube who has been battling to keep the country going since he became Finance Minister in September but immediately received a backlash when he announced new fiscal measures on 1 October, said the Zimbabwean economy faces a raft of serious challenges, including a high budget deficit and significant debt, and currency challenges.
He said while these challenges were significant, with major structural reform they were not insurmountable.
“What is required is urgent and bold action and tough decisions. We cannot run away from the challenge – the longer we wait to address it, the harder it will be,” he said.
“The government has developed a comprehensive plan to revive our economy and put us on the path to steady economic growth. The only way to a stronger economy is to restructure, rebuild and reform.
“This plan involves some painful measures to get our national budget under control. These measures will be felt by all of us, but are unavoidable if we want to get our economy back on track.
“These measures are those of a doctor performing a lifesaving operation. They cause pain, but the pain is the only thing that will lead to a recovery. As Margret Thatcher once said, ‘Yes, the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it in order to live.’
“We must all be humble and austere, and the government is leading by example. We are continuing to make big cuts to perks and unnecessary expenditure, so that government lives within its means.
“Alongside this, we are making structural reforms to liberalise our economy, privatise inefficient parastatals, reduce red tape and regulation and attract investment.
“It is vital that we do not panic. The money in Zimbabwean’s bank accounts is and continues to be of value, and the government is guaranteeing the availability of all essential commodities, including fuel.”
Zimbabwe has been experiencing shortages of fuel since October. The situation has not improved despite repeated assurances by the government and reports that it had signed deals to end the fuel crisis.
The country’s doctors were on strike from 1 December and only announced today that they were returning to work.
Other civil servants are threatening to go on strike demanding a four-fold increase in their salaries.
The government, however, insists that while it will adjust the salaries of civil servants and offer them allowances to cushion their suffering, this has to be within the approved 2019 budget.
Ncube said current reforms showed that Zimbabwe’s growth projections remain strong.
But he added: “We must be realistic and recognise the scale of the challenge. According to the IMF, it takes a few years for an economy such as ours to overcome our constraints. There are no silver bullets or quick fixes. Reform, hard work and patience are the only solutions.”