In addition to the above, countries like Zimbabwe, find it very difficult to make even routine and relatively small payments abroad. Individuals living in Zimbabwe cannot open overseas bank accounts. The U.S. dollar plays an overwhelming role in international settlements and probably commands over 80 per cent of all such transactions. Under the Swift system, these transactions are routinely monitored by the American authorities and any transfers above US$5000 are scrutinized. Should they suspect that the transaction involved a prescribed organization or individuals, then such transactions can be detained without consultation by international banks under instruction from Washington.
This increases the risk of investment in Zimbabwe and in some cases, has in fact resulted in plans for such investments being abandoned by the foreign investor. The economic implications of such incidents can be very far reaching. At the same time, such risks raise the cost of borrowing by increasing the influence of the so called ‘country risk’.
Sanctions remain a popular form of pressure on governments which are perceived as being in violation of globally accepted norms and values. I do not want to get into the merits or otherwise of such policies but simply to state that when they are adopted, they have far reaching implications, beyond what their advocates intended. We must remain focused on the fundamentals in international affairs. All citizens of the world face a common enemy which is poverty and the potential for instability in their individual countries. What we have learned in the first quarter of the 22nd century is that instability can destroy any possibility of progress.
The second lesson is that a combination of instability and poverty will drive human migration from one part of the world to another. Zimbabwe has been no exception and during the period in which our economy collapsed from 2000 to 2008, millions left for greener pastures. Today 5 million Zimbabwe adults live and work in foreign countries. This creates problems both for the country from which they originate and the countries they choose to settle in. In our case we lose skills and educated individuals who would otherwise make a significant contribution to our own economy. In destination countries this movement of millions of people is creating serious political and social problems.
In these circumstances, the international community should take care to ensure that their foreign policies do not inhibit the capacity of countries like Zimbabwe to expand their domestic economies, provide jobs and lift their people out of poverty. This process can never be achieved using foreign aid which in most cases is simply a sinecure for meeting the human and welfare problems created by the very strategies that are being adopted. The seizure of billions of dollars of funds owned by the people of Afghanistan after the Taliban take-over is just another example of such ill-considered action based on political considerations.
I am a great believer in humility and wisdom, and I think that those who control the levers of power in the world need a good measure of both when they take action to try and resolve the problems we all face. We would all like to live in countries which have a real democracy and where government is held to account for what they do and how they spend our money. But the stark realities of the situations that confronts the individual countries that we call home, dictate that we take a softer and more considered approach than that which is being exhibited in existing foreign policy.