EDITORIAL COMMENT: Focus on economy to improve lives

President Mnangagwa

President Mnangagwa

Zanu-PF, under the new dispensation, has a chance to focus on improving the quality of people’s lives by focusing on the economy, a shift from the recent past when factional politics took centre stage at the expense of service delivery.

The new thrust was reiterated by the party’s national spokesperson Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo as he commented on the party’s programmes for 2018. The economy has been at the centre of political discourse since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over from former President Robert Mugabe late last year. In his inauguration speech, President Mnangagwa focused more on rebuilding the country’s stricken economy.

Even as he presided over the Zanu-PF Extraordinary Congress in mid-December, he said the ruling party should not be about politics only. Said President Mnangagwa: “Party work must not be in the old mould of looking at Zanu-PF as being about politics, politics and politics only. Now we must be about politics and economics, after all the best politics emerge from the market place where livelihoods are made!”

However, as good an intention it is to revive the economy, it does not mean it will be smooth sailing as there are many pitfalls that need to be negotiated with caution.

Cash shortages currently bedevilling the country are seen as the biggest fault-line posing a major threat to the country’s economic recovery. They are also a source of threat to political, social and economic stability given the challenges Zimbabweans have to go through to access cash or basic products.

In recent months we have seen prices of basic products sky-rocketing with the often given excuse being that of cash shortages. This week, emotions also ran high after Harare Mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni publicly admitted that council water was not safe for residents, something people have always voiced while council pretended all was okay.

“Our claims that the water is chemically safe to drink will not hold if the residents cannot stand the sight of frothing or foaming coloured water. We apologise and request our consumers to exercise caution until such time as total quality is assured,” Manyenyeni told a meeting attended by residents’ representatives at Town House,” he said.

Again the excuse was that council was not getting enough foreign currency for the purchase of water treatment chemicals. If cash shortages persist, particularly the continued depletion of nostro accounts, they will create a downside risk to the economic outlook for 2018.

It is against this background that the latest trade statistics are a welcome development, which if sustained will provide the much needed tonic to the country’s economic recovery. Latest data from Zimstats indicate that Zimbabwe recorded a trade surplus for the first time in months as exports reached $577,5 million in November 2017 while imports slowed to $492,6 million. This represented a trade surplus of $84,9 million, the first time in a long time the country has recorded a positive out-turn.

There was a marked increase in tobacco exports in November to $284 million compared to $86 million in October. Gold exports also rose from $95 million in October to $110 million in November with nickel mattes also growing from $33,9 million to $57,8 million during the same period. The surge in exports came at a time imports were slowing down to $492,6 million.

Between January and November, Zimbabwe also saw its trade deficit narrowing down significantly to $1,45 billion compared to $2,18 billion during the same period last year. This was after exports grew 37 percent during the 11 months of the year, when compared to the same period in the prior year, as imports recorded a slight growth of 4,42 percent.

It is the 37 percent growth in exports that is encouraging as it speaks to efforts being made to boost the country’s foreign currency earnings. All hands must be put on the deck to ensure the growth momentum is sustained. Efforts must also be made to ensure the country gets the full benefits of its exports.

Reports have already been made of billions of dollars the country has been losing as a result of illicit financial flows. Issues of smuggling of gold and other precious stones; non-repatriation of export proceeds; undervaluation of exports and retention of funds offshore. All this must change. We need to all pull in one direction for the good of the country.

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  • Munopenga Chete

    We wait to see the results after the so-called 100 days but for now nothing has changed for the struggling masses no matter how loud your praise songs are. Prices have increased by +100% in the last 3 months, unending cash queues still there (now into the 15th month), booming forex black market, no new significant job opportunities, etc. I strongly doubt your trade statistics. We are made to believe that for example inflation is 2% when in reality it’s in excess of 20%. Hyper inflation is knocking on the door if nothing is not done urgently to correct the economic fundamentals. Let them fix the economy and stop being cheerleaders and praise singers.

  • Buck Rogers

    Firstly we have a “State Controlled Banking System” which does not let any economy grow , added to that Zimbabwe has one of the highest duty tariffs in place which sets the tone for an expensive economy with a stable currency , and Hyper inflationary economy with a unstable currency.