Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
The past few days have seen the economy plunge into a pool of challenges that it must get out of sooner rather than later. Many of these have far-reaching consequences that may take long to reverse unless action is taken soon.
The foreign currency parallel market has gone haywire.
Rates are tumbling to such levels where you need at least $450 to buy US$100 as of yesterday.
Ordinarily, we would not mind the rates.
It’s a market we could ignore, but not anymore because it is this market that is now determining pricing modalities and the availability or otherwise of many key commodities.
In response to the tumbling rates, prices of goods and services have more than quadrupled while in many instances retailers now demand foreign currency.
Yesterday, I could not believe my ears when I went to a pharmacy to buy medication for my son only to be told I needed to pay US$137 for medication I previously needed to pay just $8 bond shortfall to buy.
They no longer accept bonds notes, Ecocash or swipe because of the movement of rates on the parallel market.
Buying this medication would mean I would have to fork out about $600 to get the requisite US dollars on the black market.
Who does that?
But this meant I would not have the medication and surely I went home empty-handed.
This is the harsh reality that we have to contend with. The situation has just deteriorated over the last few days.
I will not pretend to have a solution to this mayhem. Only a few weeks ago we were predicting that the year would end well but we cannot say these words with the boldness and confidence that we had.
But what we know for certain though is that the situation will come right soon.
A lot hinges on how we choose to respond. Do we mourn, grumble, point-fingers and wish we were never born or we seek to put our heads together and see how best we can manoeuvre without being naïve about what confronts us today.
The predicament we find ourselves in demands nothing short of sober minds and total commitment from all stakeholders to work things out and bring the economy back on track.
What must be done with the value of bond notes?
How do we get more foreign currency and retain it in the formal market?
How do we reduce queues that continue to grow despite assurances that there is enough foreign currency to bring in enough fuel and wheat supplies?
These are issues that need to be deliberated upon.
We cannot afford to resign to fate and at the same time those taking advantage of the state of affairs to profiteer, create shortages and cause more harm should be dealt with decisively.
We need to see a public display of Government wrath and intolerance to those bent on destabilising the economy.
Zimbabweans have a penchant of shooting themselves in the foot.
While the economic fundamentals in this country are far from being ideal, some price adjustments and behaviour is quite unfortunate to say the least.
Increasing prices unjustifiably and creating artificial shortages causes unnecessary mayhem in an economy still trying to regain its strength.
Furthermore, the customers themselves panic too much and their behaviour causes price increases as the law of supply and demand takes effect.
A few months ago, people panicked and hoarded cooking and other basic commodities but the next day shelves were full again.
Stories are told of how some started selling those items at a discount to meet other family obligations.
Cooking oil producers have said there is no need to panic, cement manufacturers have said they will make up for the supply gap in recent weeks, but we all turn a deaf ear to such assurances.
Furthermore, much of the foreign currency that finds its way into this market is also used to import things that we do not necessarily need to buy from outside at such times.
Luxuries such as apples from Cape town, nartjies from Durban and bottled water from KZN Province in South Africa, not to mention chocolate from Switzerland, are imports we can do without for now.
Nyanga produces amazing apples.
If we behave responsibly, then the challenges will be dealt with more successfully.
The Government needs to be alert to the situation and ensure swift action is taken where need be.
More dialogue between Government and private business is also critical to increase levels of tolerance and compromise for the greater good of the economy.
Reports that a number of shops and companies have closed shop communicate the wrong message to the citizenry and other interested parties out there. There is need for these two stakeholders to move in one accord, forming a formidable force against the challenges that confront this country today.
I had a discussion with a senior business executive yesterday who said he didn’t know whether we were coming or going as he expressed shock at the sudden turn of events in this economy. The entire complexion has changed in a matter of days thus throwing his last quarter targets and programmes out the window.
“How do we plan now? What will tomorrow be like,” he asked, almost rhetorically. But he was resolute that one way or the other, Zimbabwe would emerge the winner.
Many say that what is happening now is reminiscent of the 2008 economic problems, some of them in jest but this is 2018 and the experience of a decade ago should help us resolve the current state of affairs and ensure the situation does not degenerate to such levels.
This economy has immense potential and the wherewithal to survive the current storm.
It takes commitment and a selfless attitude to surmount the challenges prevailing in the economy.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is one institution that has never been generous in its observations and commentary about Zimbabwe but when you see them revise growth targets upwards then it shows that we are in the right direction on the road to recovery.
We reported yesterday that the Bretton Woods institution believes the economy will grow by 3,6 percent, up from its initial 2,4 percent projection.
It would certainly be a sad day for our country were we to let this positive projection slip through our hands because we were either too greedy or panicked too soon.
Let’s use the history of 2008-09 to improve ourselves and not to destroy what we have built over the last few months.
Government should remain resolute in its endeavour to revive the economy while it is incumbent upon every Zimbabwean to ensure that things actually get better for all of us.
Many are spoiling for a great Christmas and not one where we might have to buy chicken for $85 and a loaf of bread for $16,50.
We want a healthier festive period where medicines will be available at proper prices for those that need them.
In our actions, individually or collectively, we should ask ourselves whether each step we take and each decision we make is creating the Zimbabwe We want.
In God I Trust!