Prosper Ndlovu in Victoria Falls
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday reiterated the need to adopt fair business practices and urged economic stakeholders to rally behind the country’s transformation agenda and leave a legacy of positive impression on all Zimbabweans.
Reacting to consumer outcries over rampant profiteering by some business players who continue pegging prices of goods and services using illegal and speculative parallel market rates, the President said such acts of sabotage did not have economic justification and deserved severe punishment hence Government was taking tough steps to protect ordinary citizens.
He was responding to candid remarks by Treasury secretary, Mr George Guvamatanga, who, in his preliminary remarks before the President’s official opening of the Zimbabwe Economic Development Conference (ZEDCON) here, lamented greed by some private players bent on milking poor consumers through unjustified pricing models.
Despite the impact of imported inflation due to prevailing geo-political complications, the Government, with concurrence from economic experts, has attributed the recent pricing volatility to market indiscipline expressed through speculative parallel market activity.
In this context, Mr Guvamatanga had made reference to obscene pricing of tourism and hospitality products, for instance, which he said have seen some operators charging an equivalent of up to US$600 for accommodation and meals for a day, based on the official exchange rate, with some flight services being pegged at US$1 500 equivalent.
This comes as Government this week adopted a tough position not to approve contracts and payments by its agencies and departments, which are pegged at unjustified parallel market rates.
“This is not acceptable and it has to stop Your Excellency,” said Mr Guvamatanga.
“Government ministries and departments would not be supporting such extortionate pricing systems.”
In an off-the-cuff response, President Mnangagwa said such speculative market behaviour was against the prevailing stable fundamentals, which have been a source of volatility in the past, and assured the nation that corrective measures were being implemented to restore sanity.
“Your statement was loud and clear and we shouldn’t be having people doing this in our society. We don’t want our society as a nation to be constituted by such characters,” said the President.
“We have a duty as citizens of our nation to play fair and be remembered for building our country and not destroying it.
“It’s unfortunate that what he said is happening in Zimbabwe, if he said it in China we’ll be having candidates for execution. But in Zimbabwe I as the President don’t want death penalty and we need to find other means of punishment.”
Turning to his prepared speech, the President said the Government’s sound economic policies and fundamentals, which instill confidence, support a stable domestic currency and generation of foreign currency were anchored on tight monetary policy and a favourable fiscal position.
“The onus is now on participants and other stakeholders to also play their part, as we work together in the national interest,” he urged.
“”The existence of these strong economic fundamentals is contrary to the recent exchange rate depreciation, which is driven by factors outside the obtaining economic realities.”
President Mnangagwa said the ZEDCON indaba, which began on Wednesday and ended yesterday under the theme: “Accelerating Economic Transformation Through Evidence-based Policy Making,” highlights Government’s quest to mainstream evidence and research to inform key policy formulation processes.
He said the Second Republic has also made notable headway with regards to economic reforms while the engagement and re-engagement policy has also recorded some successes with the creation of a broad innovation ecosystem also yielding unprecedented breakthroughs.
“This is a result of the Government’s support and capacitation of strategic national institutions, including strengthening their research and innovation capabilities.
“We have the onus to build the Zimbabwe we all want brick by brick, stone upon stone, as we march towards attainment of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income economy.
“Going forward, events such as this conference should foster a culture of continued learning, unlearning and re-learning for the accelerated development of our country. We must, thus, continually inculcate the mainstreaming of evidence into budget processes and decisions, not only in Government but across other sectors of the economy.”
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, whose ministry was hosting the event, said it was through President Mnangagwa’s wisdom that Government drafted NDS1 and was driving implementation of key reforms.
As a result, he said the Zimbabwean economy remains in sustained positive growth with month on month inflation starting to recede as corrective policy measures bear fruit.
The ZEDCON began on Wednesday and ended yesterday with local and international delegates drawn from a diversity of stakeholders including academia, economic research institutions, policy makers, development partner agencies, industry and commerce, among others.
Coming at a time when the global economy is being adversely impacted by the disruptive headwinds emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has pass-through effects on the local economy, its recommendations are expected to feed into the 2023 national budget and beyond.
Zimbabwe, however, has exhibited resilience so far and is poised to record an estimated revised positive growth of 4.6 percent this year from initial 5.5 percent driven by the Second Republic’s supportive policy reforms, which have stabilised macro-economic fundamentals and rejuvenated domestic production.
Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution said the ZEDCON conference has come at a time when Zimbabwe is building momentum towards achievement of an upper middle-income economy vision by 2030.
As such, he said participation of experts in national economic growth is critical in meeting desired growth targets, especially on the back of unforeseen global shocks.
With proper strategies he says Zimbabwe can achieve higher levels of growth in line with President Mnangagwa’s philosophy “Nyika inovakwa nevene bayo/Ilizwe lakhiwa ngabaninilo”.
Moyo paid tribute to the Government for spearheading Lake Gwayi-Shangani construction and the massive Hwange Power Station Unit 7 and 8 expansion projects.
In coming up with the ZEDCON, Government has stressed the need to promote Evidence Informed Policy Making (EIPM), and knowledge management as an important driver of policy dialogue, good policy planning and implementation.
The platform modelling, thus, demonstrates that the Second Republic has a listening leadership and buttresses the spirit of “leaving no-one and no place behind”.
Apart from Government representatives, key speakers at the conference included World Bank country director, Ms Marjorie Mpundu and banker Mr Nigel Chanakira, African Diaspora Development Institute (ADDI) founder, Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and Victoria Falls Stock Exchange chief executive officer, Mr Justin Bgoni and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Dr John Mangudya.
The gathering tackled several topics such as the role of capital markets in the development of the country, human capital retention for national development and fiscal incentives and economic sustainability of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Zimbabwe.