Source: Editorial Comment: Business not to blame for inflation – The Standard April 21, 2019
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s attempt at stemming economic recession and the obtaining galloping inflation by blaming and threatening business is an exercise in futility.
Having benefited from the experience with President Robert Mugabe’s economic experiments, nobody should know better than Mnangagwa that economic realities cannot be changed by anger, threats or Baccossi experiments.
But the president doesn’t seem to have learnt anything from that grim economic past. Irked by the obtaining wild wave of prices for basic commodities, Mnangagwa rolled up his sleeves and went bare knuckle after business and industry. He called them unethical, unpatriotic and inhumane saboteurs before threatening to deal with bakers and retailers by setting up small-scale bakeries and “people’s shops” — common in struggling communist countries.
Needless to say, all that vitriol was misdirected and unhelpful. The president cannot put blame on business for the tanking economy when global economic observers have warned of recession brought about by factors including economic mismanagement, corruption and political instability.
Mnangagwa himself presided over economic policies that believed in the fallacy that some pseudo-currency which they named bond/RTGS wielded equal value with the United States dollar. This fiction was allowed to subsist for a long period within which time wholesale financial looting took place. The plunder benefitted mostly the ruling elite, which is why it was allowed to carry on until the country went broke and there was virtually nothing left to steal.
It is that national plunder and other acts of omission and commission, including profligate government spending, that brought the economy down while political wrong footing played its part in the slow to negative economic growth that Zimbabwe has experienced.
The situation in which the ordinary Zimbabwean now finds themselves in requires serious and selfless action on the part of government. Prices of goods and services have reached levels where national security becomes compromised. A price of $3.50 RTGS for a loaf of bread is simply unaffordable for the majority Zimbabweans because their incomes have not changed ever since government introduced its austerity measures.
The prices of other basic commodities like mealie-meal have risen and continue to go up and workers’ organisations are getting agitated.
Government reaction, as espoused by the president on Independence Day, is not reassuring at all. The people know that Mnangagwa’s anger and threats will not help the situation, just as they know his proposed solutions will not work, because they have been down that road before.
The government is responsible of the current sorry state of the economy and it is its responsibility to take the country out of this mess. The president should be seen to be acting with sincerity and seriousness in dealing with the national crisis at hand instead of spending his time and energy commissioning buildings and vehicles that will not have meaningful and immediate impact on the misery and hunger that is ravaging the people.