|Unpacking Minister Biti’s ‘trilemma’|
|Monday, 01 August 2011 02:00|
Presenting the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review last week, Finance Minister Tendai Biti used a word that many people do not encounter every day.
He said Zimbabwe continued to suffer from a "trilemma" of high demand, huge expectations and weak fiscal space.
Many people would often relate to dilemmas, moreso in this politically polarised environment where someone has said that neutrals are an endangered species.
Of course, in the legal fraternity where the minister hails from, the term is used fairly enough, as it also applies to religion, philosophy, and economics.
It will be interesting to unpack what Biti calls Zimbabwe's current trilemma.
He noted the current pressures of civil service wage demands, albeit justified, which he said was gobbling 70 percent of the total budget.
The huge demands and expectations on the budget were against domestic revenue collection.
On the other pillar of the trilemma, Biti said lack of fiscal space owed to limited (foreign) investment which left Zimbabwe largely relying on its own resources for capitalisation.
"Furthermore," said Biti, "the country remains in the unenviable situation whereby the level of development assistance not only falls short of the levels enjoyed by other developing countries but largely remains outside the Government system.
"Notwithstanding the above, the inclusive Government appreciates the support our development partners have continued to pledge and disburse towards various sectors of the economy," he said.
He noted further that with the "limited" alternative sources of revenue, domestic revenue on its own could not sustain Government's "multitude" of requirements.
While there might be no denying of the situation above which Biti calls a trilemma there is something fundamentally dishonest about Biti's analysis.
Generally, it relates to Biti's treatment of the politics of Zimbabwe's economics from the partisan way which one is likely to find in MDC-T pamphlets.
Please note the repetition of the never-ending "outstanding issues of the GPA" with which the MDC-T is so obsessed, which in the statement Biti says slow or non-implementation thereof have "remained the number one nightmare".
Because of the very dynamic nature of MDC formations' list of outstanding issues, which even now include Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba, the MDC parties continue to play blame to mask their failure to bring meaningful development to Government.
Specifically, there is dishonesty in Biti as he fails to acknowledge the fact that Zimbabwe's fiscal space has been constricted by countries in the West that maintain sanctions against Zimbabwe.
It is not a secret that Zimbabwe does not receive development aid from the United States and the European Union due to sanctions imposed by these countries on Zimbabwe.
These powers have even blocked Zimbabwe's access to the Global Fund to fight HIV and TB.
These countries deny Zimbabwe access to lines of credit at multilateral lending institutions such as the Bretton Woods institutions.
Sanctions stop Western companies from trading with Zimbabwe while countries in the West have attached risk stigma on investing in Zimbabwe.
Where the countries in the West have provided funds, the funds did not go into capacity building and suchlike developments but straight into consumables.
Even then, as Biti notes, the money is channelled through sources outside Government.
Biti is then strangely touted as the best Finance Minister in Africa!
Here comes an addition to Biti's trilemma - to make the grotesque "quadrilemma" - that Biti and his MDC peers as handheld by the West cannot bring themselves to tackle the issue of sanctions.
Not that it will be in Western interests.
But Biti certainly would not want to be constricted, as demonstrated, while he finds the sanctions politically useful.
It is a complex web.
Ironically, Biti even mentions "policy inconsistencies and double-speak" as "imposing serious shocks and pressures on our economy".
One finds it strange that Biti seems to apologise for his unforthcoming "development partners" notwithstanding their glaring shortcomings.
Apart from the usual complaints about transparency, which have been noted to not have the best of intentions, one is struck by Biti's impatience with the "international community" over Zimbabwe's diamonds.
He says it is "important that the international community recognises the compliance levels attained by Zimbabwean companies and hence accord Zimbabwe the right of selling its diamonds within the Kimberly Process and Certification Scheme".
By "international community", of course Biti refers to the Western countries of the US, EU and Canada which have continued to deny Zimbabwe's legitimate trade in its diamonds.
This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe has met all conditions necessary to trade under the banner of the KP.
In fact, Western interference at the KP, where they are a minority albeit a powerful one, is many, many times a danger to Zimbabwe's diamond revenue than perceived leakages which Biti ostensibly wants to plug via that controversial Diamond Bill.
As finance minister he should feel entitled to Zimbabwe's potential diamond money that is being held up by the West.
Unfortunately, Biti is at a crisis again on this score.
Then big questions should be asked of Biti and Zimbabwe.
Will Zimbabwe's economy ever grow when Government through its finance minister prefers to go for cosmetic changes when there is need for critical and holistic changes?
There is little doubt that the West poses a present and continuous threat to Zimbabwe.
Why won't Biti become a true people's champion and best African minister of finance by carrying the cause of the majority?
Why won't the Government speak with one voice on the same threat, without the likes of Biti and his MDC peers being tempted to call against sanctions during the day while saying the opposite in their nocturnal moments with the West?
Zimbabwe should be able to slough off its dilemmas, trilemmas or a multiplicity of those forms and those who have the same really have no business masquerading as leaders.