HARARE – During the inclusive government between long-time rivals — deposed president Robert Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai — a statement which goes; “We eat what we kill” became very common.
The phrase, commonly used by then Finance minister Tendai Biti, simply meant living within the budget.
At the time, the “living within your means” approach helped curb Mugabe administration’s runaway expenditure. And things improved during the time as government expenses were contained, while resources were channelled towards other important things.
But it seems government has since returned to its old ways — living beyond its means.
According to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya’s latest monetary policy released on Wednesday, government broke the bank, exceeding its $800 million overdraft facility by $400 million, leaving it indebted to the tune of $1,2 billion as at December 31, 2017.
Obviously, a greater part of that debt was incurred during Mugabe’s time, as Mnangagwa only took office on November 24, 2017. But that’s unsustainable.
It calls for urgent austerity measures and serious belt-tightening by the new dispensation. At this point in time, government is broke. It cannot sustain its excessive expenditure, most of it unnecessary.
Although Mnangagwa started off on a good note in terms of cutting costs by cutting the number of ministries and announcing moves to get rid of State enterprises that have been perennial loss-makers surviving through bail-outs from Treasury and reducing foreign missions, among other measures, more needs to be done.
Apart from trimming the entourages on government trips — who gobble huge sums in allowances, as was the case during Mugabe’s time, Mnangagwa and team must focus on implementing those cost-cutting measures.
Talking and doing are two totally different things.
And if Mnangagwa is to prove that he is a better leader than Mugabe, he must walk the talk.
By now, there should have been tangible and meaningful developments to the cost-cutting measures he committed to.
Those top-heavy and unproductive parastatals — where bosses are drawing hefty salaries not sustained by productivity but by bail-outs from Treasury — must be shut down, restructured or merged.
The civil service must be audited to ascertain the numbers and weed out ghost workers.
Government has for long run a bloated wage bill, but has failed to account for the workers.
These are just a few of the many needless expenses incurred by government, hence the huge overdraft.
Mr President, please enforce stringent austerity measures.