via 3 simple solutions for economy woe, US – New Zimbabwe 12/11/2015
ZIMBABWE has been in the grip of a serious economic crisis for nearly 15 years with the government, according to the opposition, clueless over how to end a crunch that has impoverished millions.
Formal unemployment is said to be over 80 percent as companies have been forced to shut down while millions have been driven across the country’s borders to escape the hardships.
Outgoing US ambassador Bruce Wharton said there was no need for head-scratching over solutions, pointing out that government needed to do just three simple things to set the economy right.
Harare must simply ensure the restoration of property rights, restore the rule of law and ensure that court decisions are respected as well as clarify the country’s investment policy, said the envoy.
“Firstly, farmers need long term leases or a tenure certificate, something that the banks will recognise as collateral.
“I think this will turn around the agricultural economic which has been the backbone and foundation of this country’s economy,” Ambassador Wharton told a breakfast meeting with journalists in Harare.
President Robert Mugabe’s often violent land reforms are blamed for the economic problems.
Banks have also hesitated to support the resettled farmers since they were not given title to the land and have no collateral.
Ambassador Wharton said Zimbabwe must also restore the rule of law and respect for court decisions.
He spoke after prosecutor general, Johannes Tomana, was recently sentenced to jail by an unimpressed Constitutional Court for ignoring court orders.
“When a court makes a decision that so and so must stop doing something, that person has to comply, regardless of who they are or the position they hold in the society,” said the US envoy.
“It needs someone who will stand up and say we fought the liberation war to make sure that everybody has the same rights; we need to reaffirm our support for the rule of law and our judiciary system.”
The third thing Harare needs do to ensure economic recovery is clarify its investment policies.
Wharton made particular reference to the much-criticised indigenisation programme which forces foreign firms to cede to locals 51 percent of their Zimbabwe investments.
“Indigenisation is a very good worthy concept; all governments have the responsibility to protect their citizens, economic rights first,” said Ambassador Wharton.
“But the implementation of the policy has remained hard to predict and seems to change from time to time; and that has serious effect on investors’ willingness to put their money in Zimbabwe.”
President Mugabe blames sanctions imposed by the West for stoking the country’s economic crisis.
The European Union has since lifted its sanctions, leaving only Mugabe and his wife, Grace, subject to a travel ban.
Washington maintains its own measures, insisting the Harare regime is a threat to US foreign police.
Ambassador Wharton however, said poor policy choices are responsible for Zimbabwe’s problems, not sanctions.
Wharton has been in Zimbabwe since 2012 and returns to Washington for a new role at the State Department.