The President broke with the past at two crucial moments – after the MAT in November and then after the elections. In both cases he clearly committed himself and his new Government to fundamental changes and to re-establishing a working relationship with the international Community after decades of isolation and hostility. The response to these clear indications of intent was immediate, and the international Community responded saying that if we followed through on these undertakings, they would support our economic recovery and reengagement efforts. It seemed at last that the world was at our feet again.
But it was not to be. We quickly appreciated that the President did not have the unfettered power that Mugabe had exercised over the country for 37 years. The first Cabinet was a divided house and little was achieved in respect to the reform agenda in the first 7 months. This changed significantly with the elections but again there was evidence of conflict in the corridors of power where key decisions are made and executed. Then towards the end of 2019, the President restructured his Cabinet and made a number of key appointments.
And so we came to the end of a disastrous year in many respects. The Transitional Stabilisation Program had required savage cuts in Government expenditure, a controlled devaluation of unmanageable domestic debt accumulated in the past five years and a restructuring of costs in the economy to bring them more into line with regional realities. It has been a tough year for everyone, except a few individuals who seem to thrive no matter what happens to the rest of us. One young Zimbabwean, drives around Harare in a Bugatti – perhaps the most expensive car in the world. His friends all boast luxury cars with brand names that put them in a similar bracket. Wealth with no visible means of support.
But we must look beyond these disparities and problems and recognise that our pain as a Nation has borne significant fruit: our domestic debt is now a tiny fraction of what it was and is manageable, our international debt has only increased marginally and is now being serviced to some extent. Our civil service was costing us 100 per cent of all our taxes a year ago, it now consumes 35 per cent, our fiscal deficit was massive and equal to 40 per cent of the entire budget of Government, is now positive and we ended 2019 with nearly Z$2 billion in the bank. We have liberalised our foreign exchange market and restored the viability of our export industries which are now expanding rapidly with the result that we now have nearly US$1 billion in our bank accounts and Government has a small surplus in the Treasury in hard currency.
These are not small achievements and what annoys me is that so little recognition has been given to the Government and the President for their stance on these issues which have been very tough on the entire nation. I am pleased that at least the International Monetary Fund found sufficient reason at the year end to give us a cautious thumb up for what we achieved last year despite some serious deviations.
So where are we going in the next decade? Is it more of the same? We just cannot handle that plus the changes now being inflicted on us by climate change. Everyone, and I mean everyone, not just those in power, must accept and acknowledge this – we have to start doing things differently. For me 2019 has set the stage – now we must move on and decisively. I hear that the MDC is planning a series of large scale demonstrations in early 2020. Is that really the answer? Will it really bring change or simply lead to more street violence. I agree with S B Moyo when he called for the Police to escort demonstrations through the streets of our towns and make sure they do not spill over into looting and violence. But we all know that these events can only be managed so far.
Rather I think we need to work together to get things right in our country. Is that so difficult to understand and accept? But it will only happen if we put the country first in all that we do – and not the pursuit of power or wealth.