Sometime last year, it must have been in October, I felt like praying for Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa as he headed to Lima, the capital of a country called Peru where there was a meeting of finance and monetary chiefs from around the world, gathering under the aegis of the International Monetary Fund. There, in Lima, Cde Chinamasa was going to present and discuss Zimbabwe’s debt, specifically the clearance thereof, which has been a niggling issue for over a decade now.
The debt is now said to be over US$11 billion, a particular mill around Zimbabwe’s neck as the country cannot be given new monies by lenders which fresh money is necessary to stimulate growth.
Or at least let us survive.
That week, on a day like this one, I had wanted to wish him well as I imagined he was going to face a lot of challenges meeting the world’s monetary lords and sheikhs.
And oh, I actually feared the worst for him.
You could actually imagine Cde Chinamasa playing the role of Tolkien’s Frodo visiting Sauron the Dark Lord of Mordor to accomplish the mission of destroying the odius Ring on the fires of Mount Doom.
For those familiar with the epic story, the so-called One Ring was forged by the said Dark Lord Sauron to gain dominion the contemporary people of the Middle Earth and it was intended to have magical power over all other rings which bore similar mysterious powers.
For all we know, the way the money is controlled in the world through instruments like the IMF and the World Bank, is a dark mystery overseen by some dark western lords and princes.
So we all wished Cde Chinamasa a safe journey to and from Lima.
As it turned out, he came out in one piece and managed a respite for the country’s debt situation namely the rescheduling of the debt.
It should also be borne in mind that Cde Chinamasa had passed with flying colours the tests presented by the IMF under a programme called the Staff Monitored Programme in which certain “reforms” were to be implemented and measures put in place to the satisfaction of the IMF so that they can be convinced in Zimbabwe’s compliance and goodness or aptitude to be given credit.
Early October, the IMF praised Zimbabwe (read Cde Chinamasa) noting that, “Despite increasing economic and financial difficulties, the Zimbabwean authorities have demonstrated strong commitment to the programme by taking important steps to advance their macroeconomic and structural reforms.”
“They have made significant progress in implementing their reform agenda, particularly in financial sector and labor-market reforms. In addition, they are starting to take steps to rationalize public expenditure and reduce public sector employment costs,” IMF added.
It should be noted that the tests in which Cde Chinamasa has earned top marks have been to the accompaniment of a degree of social pain, as the so-called labour reforms wrought in the past year witnessed.
More specifically, the steps he has taken to, “rationalise public expenditure and reduce public sector employment costs” may have contributed to the missing 13th cheque which many people had grown to take for granted, and one which President Mugabe expected his workers to be rewarded with.
But we have to believe that Cde Chinamasa means no harm.
This year promises to be almost similar to last year, if not a little harder, especially with the drought upon us.
Drought by its very nature upsets national economies especially when the little or all money that you have has to be diverted towards ensuring food security.
This is why we all must pray for Cde Chinamasa in 2016.
Just yesterday, he was paying the last batch of civil servants their dues for the month of December, and belatedly closing that chapter.
In a few day’s time the hunt will be on to find resources so that another round of payments will be done to the long suffering civil servants.
This is why you wouldn’t want to be in Cde Chinamasa’s shoes.
All eyes are on him.
And do you blame him when, as we saw just recently, he seems to tip his hand in an effort to ensure that resources are available to feed the voracious demands of the nation and in particular recurrent expenditures?
He has trained his focus in securing Foreign Direct Investment for the country.
FDI means allowing foreign companies to come into the country and invest in the hope that, at the very least, they can be milked by way of taxes and they can employ and produce for the market and earn the country the elusive dollar.
This “improving (of) the investment climate” is of course part of a four-pillar “policy reform agenda” that IMF further requires of us.
There may have been a feeling that a particular policy called indigenisation and economic empowerment is a hindrance to the sacred FDI, and Cde Chinamasa appeared to seek to right this anomaly.
This naturally got Cde Chinamasa into trouble and the “Tale of Two Patricks” that this same column alluded to last week, highlighted the rumpus.
It is interesting that this Monday, a consensus was reached which left both parties — the “reformist” and “hardline” wings — positively satisfied.
And it is interesting to note that the Minister of Indigenisation, Cde Patrick Zhuwao, on whose lane Cde Chinamasa appeared to have encroached prior to the apparent rapprochement on Monday, actually wishes his counterpart well in his endeavours — like we all do.
There is nothing wrong in seeking to clear the odious debt that is holding back Zimbabwe, and it is better still to find new avenues.
The only counsel would be for Cde Chinamasa not to put all his eggs in the IMF basket or allow its still subtle political manoeuvres to blight his standing.
It will be noted that while he scored so highly on SMP, at the home front he may have dropped guard and allowed a historic low — that of failing to pay salaries and bonuses to set in.
Not everyone, least so the so-called born-frees, ever remember happening that to their parents or themselves.
And juxtaposed by the strident assurances of the country’s leadership and exhortation for the fiscal authorities to find resources, this historic low can be seen not only as an administrative failure but also be read by some as a political one.
This is why more creativity and diligence will be expected in 2016.
And good luck with the IMF loosening its purse strings.
Let’s just say a little prayer for Zimbabwe and its foremost hunter and gatherer, Cde Patrick Chinamasa.