Just for the Record
Right now most Zimbabweans are deep in a slew of despair. My father who died at the age of 83 said to me once that he could never remember a time when things were what you could call ‘normal’. We were always in some sort of crisis.
He saw the market crash in the 1930’s, then the Second World War, then the Federation and its breakup. Then the liberation war and sanctions and the Robert Mugabe era. Thank goodness he was not around for the collapse here in 2000 to 2008, or the subsequent changes in 2017/18. It just never seems to stop.
But we tend to forget that life on this beautiful, but turbulent planet, has always been like this. Jesus once said ‘In the World, you will have tribulation’, not maybe, ‘will’. So why are we sitting around complaining with our lot? We should expect little else and learn how to thrive despite the conditions around us. The quote above goes on to say ‘but, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’
Sceptics would say that there is little evidence of this in our world but in many respects the saying is true, in the middle of all this turbulence, we can know ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ and discover that ‘He’ really does ‘give us our daily bread’.
My own feelings are that we have made real progress in the past year or so in the task of setting Zimbabwe on the road back to prosperity and growth. But it is not going to be quick, easy or without pain.
When I say this to friends they regard me with that look that basically says – you again, the forever optimist! I counter this with two arguments – please show me anyone who ever really achieved anything without optimism – optimism in their own capacity and in achievement of the task that they had taken on.
My second illustration comes from our guerrilla war, would my sceptics go into battle with leadership that did not believe they could fight and survive? Of course not, it is an essential feature of leadership that we believe in what we are doing and what we are going to achieve.
So just what has been achieved in the past year in Zimbabwe? I list the following which in my view constitute real progress and essential building blocks for the future:
In 2019 we adopted a national budget that, for the first time since the GNU provided for a fiscal deficit that was below 3 per cent of the GDP. We then went on the turn the year end with a substantial fiscal surplus. When you cast your mind back to 2018 when we were running a budget with a 40 per cent deficit of expenditure over income. Observers thought Mthuli Ncube was a ‘magic man’. At the same time the Ministry of Finance imposed strict controls on all State expenditure and enforced this new discipline across the board.
We have got our Government salary bill under control, reduced employment in many areas and we are now spending less than 40 per cent of all State revenues on salaries – against nearly 100 per cent in 2018. We have enforced Public Sector management reforms including limiting the tenure of all key staff to two terms, introduced performance targets for all Ministries and State enterprise and limited participation in the Boards of over 100 SOE’s and other State controlled entities.
We have conducted a complete review of all Government liabilities and consolidated these for management purposes. Our total consolidated external debts amount to US$14.3 billion. That might sound like a lot of money but what astounds me is the fact that the original sum borrowed was only US$4,2 billion, the rest is interest and penalties. My own view is that we can handle these debts without difficulty even if we get no assistance from the international community. I was astounded that the World Bank is charging us 10 per cent interest – in USD that is just ridiculous. This is more serious in real terms than sanctions. If China had been subject to such penalty interest rates, their evolution as a major economic player would have been impossible.
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