Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The economic realities of Zimbabwe:  A need for contingency plan for a life after Mugabe

Difficult as resolving the political situation in Zimbabwe might seem, the real problem in that country is not politics; rather it all has got to do with the economy.

For Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions to be revived the economy has to get back to life.

That country has lost many of its skilled people. They are scattered all over southern Africa, making meaningful contributions to other countries.

Many more are overseas, especially in the United States and United Kingdom.

Zimbabwe needs these people.

These people are however not going to come back tomorrow simply because a person called Robert Mugabe would no longer be state president of their country.

For them to come back, there will have to be tangible evidence that life for them back home would be better than abroad.

This means good prospects of better paying jobs, good schools for their children and most importantly an assurance that their individual human rights will be respected and also guaranteed by authorities.

International donors and funders have long turned their backs against Zimbabwe ÔÇô chiefly because the leaders of that country had no respect for the rule of law, but also because the Government of Zimbabwe had become totally unreliable when it came to honouring its international obligations.

Zimbabwe is a perennial bad paper.

Today that country owes the World Bank and International Monetary Fund a total of $10 billion between them.

The country has been in arrears and has somersaulted on some agreements that were part of preconditions for issuance of those loans.

There is no doubt that for Zimbabwe to get back on its feet, the country will need much more than the departure of Robert Mugabe.

The country will need the return of the World Bank and the IMF together with the African Development Bank.

During Mugabe’s long tenure, too many bridges were broken with such countries like United Kingdom, United States and others that are part of the European Union hounded out of that country.

These are the same countries that Zimbabwe will need if the euphoria surrounding Mugabe’s imminent departure is not going to immediately collapse into anger, disappointment and despair that might in turn lead people to lose hope and faith in democracy as to even start longing for Mugabe’s days in power.

Whoever takes after Mugabe needs to keep an open attitude towards rebuilding those broken bridges.

Zimbabwe used to be a net exporter of commercial agricultural products.

Years of drought and economic mismanagement have almost brought the agricultural sector of that country on its knees.

Political violence and badly implemented land redistribution have sent the commercial farmers out of that country.

These are people the new Zimbabwe will need to ensure that food security returns in that country.

There used to be a time Zimbabwe was counted among countries that were bread baskets of the African continent.

Today the country is a basket case.

Life expectancy, once among the highest in Africa is today among the lowest.

The education system, once among Africa’s best has all but collapsed.

The public health sector today only exists in name.

Clinics and hospitals have no medicine. And even easily curable illnesses are today sending Zimbabweans to their early graves.

To turn around all these there is going to be need for a centrally coordinated economic package plan.

Ideally the plan would be managed through the head office of SADC. But SADC has a terrible history of untold incompetence and inefficiency.

The situation is made all the worse by the fact that as things currently stand, SADC has not leverage ÔÇô economic or political in Zimbabwe.

The situation can however be turned around if SADC itself goes ahead of big international donors by creating its own recovery package for Zimbabwe which if big and acceptable to the Zimbabwean authorities can immediately be used as leverage.

Zimbabwe has run out of cash. Foreign currency is also not there.

Paying public servants, especially the army and the policy has to be guaranteed if that country is to be avoided from sliding into chaos.

The national budget has to be propped up.

The current $2 billion deficit has to be financed by the international community.

In doing all these, the international community has to set conditions ÔÇô all of them at broadening democracy, enhancing economic efficiency and above all ensuring peace in Zimbabwe.

The new authorities need to make big guarantees ÔÇô including entrenching property rights.

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