Source: Patrick Chinamasa right on diplomatic missions | The Financial Gazette September 22, 2016
By Sparkleford Masiyambiri
The suggestion by Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, while presenting his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy last week to reduce the number of diplomatic missions is prudent. Implementing this idea will go a long way in reducing government recurrent monthly expenditure significantly.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is struggling to keep running about 43 embassies scattered all over the world owing to budgetary constraints.
It is fundamental that an assessment of the most critical global zones which have direct benefits to the country are maintained, while the rest can be closed and all the whole delegations there should be recalled back home.
This would certainly go a long way in saving money for funding other critical and needy areas, like paying the civil servants and other routine government expenses. If the budget can no longer sustain these missions, national interests being served by the diplomatic mission can best be done directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the capital city. Foreign travels would be done to those countries only when it is found necessary. For instance, the rest of the embassies in the the Southern African Development Community region can be served from Harare.
Alternatively, the diplomatic staff can be trimmed to smaller numbers, which is easy to maintain, but good enough to fully represent State interests. A typical example is that of the Cuban embassy in Harare which is manned by two Cubans only. They deal with all issues effectively and efficiently, while our embassies are too bloated and burden-some to our national budget.
If one tries to quantify the work or business brought by these foreign missions, one would be left wondering whether it is wise to keep them running with no tangible results in return. The logical thing is to keep “only” the chicken which lays the “golden egg”, and discarded the rest.
It is an indisputable fact that our visibility on the global landscape is essential, bearing in mind that the concept of diplomatic agents residing in another country dates to the 15th Century, but the role of diplomats has evolved with the passage of time. Originally, agents were asked to help to work out specific negotiations between countries.
Nowadays, their duties include cultivating a relationship between their native country, and the host country; serving as intermediaries by relaying each country’s positions to the other; and trying to ensure the best possible treatment for their home countries. In the short run, this indispensible function can be served from home. Then we can always re-open later when our macro political and economic environment improves.
A strategy to help anchor the Finance Minister’s suggestion would entail that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, be put under strict obligation to maintain relations with other countries and international organisations. The ministry would also spear-head participation in the promotion of cooperation with other countries as well as promoting the interests of all Zimbabwean nationals abroad.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry can also lead in the collection of information on other countries and international developments for government and other interest groups, as well as providing information on Zimbabwean domestic and foreign policies and the Zimbabwe’s position on international issues and developments.
One thinks that changing ways of doing business on the international fora is the only way out of the economic predicament bedevilling the nation today.