Candid Comment: When will we have a real budget?

AFTER listening to Finance minister Tendai Biti’s budget statement Friday one felt very sad indeed.

Comment by Itai Masuku

It’s a Mickey Mouse affair. An estimated 12 million-plus people pinning their hopes on US$3,5 billion, the same amount that can be earned by a single Hollywood blockbuster movie or half of what the Pick n’ Pay retail chain across the border in South Africa generates in a year?

The budget just shows how poor we are and paradoxically, in a country so blessed with abundant resources. At the diamond conference this week it was revealed Zimbabwe has a quarter of the world’s diamond resources.

That means we have a quarter of the world’s wealth in terms of those stones that are forever. And yet we are forever poor.

Elsewhere in this edition we have a story that focuses on Unki Platinum mine. That mine in that obscure part of the world called Shurugwi is home to what was initially thought to be the world’s largest platinum deposits.

This has variously been revised to second and third largest resource in the world. Host to such magnitude of the world’s most precious metal and yet we are still poor? This causes cognitive dissonance of immense proportions!

In addition we do have significant amounts of gold deposits, the time-tested precious metal and store of value.

Zimbabwe also has a myriad of base metals such as chrome and nickel in viable quantities. As for the organic deposits, there are vast, exploitable quantities of coal and gas. Some have even thrown in oil for good measure.

So why are we still so poor?

Notice, we have only dealt with the mining sector. Our potential for agriculture is immense; one Canadian investment expert says this country could solely live off contract farming for the Western nations, because of the ideal climate and soil qualities it has for an array of crops.

Still, others say we could make a mint from our education legacy, service industry etc.

The question remains: Why then, are we still poor?

In short, the causes of our poverty go beyond our Mickey Mouse budget.

The answer is because we fail to leverage on the endowments and potential we have. Poverty, therefore, is not out there, but in here; in our minds. We have a poverty mindset.

Thus the comparatively pea-sized budget is a result of our poor mindset and poor governance in both the public and private sectors.. And as for the budget itself, there is nothing really new.

It’s the same old story; we need to cut our expenditure and thereby reduce the budget deficit. Do we really need a 200 000-plus civil service, especially with the advent of IT?

If we assume our population is 12 million, this means one civil servant per 60 people. It would be better if that was the national doctor to patient ratio. Do we need to retain the loss-making parastatals? We need a new mindset.

Sceptics have dismissed the CEO Roundtable’s notion of a US$100 billion dollar economy. The Business Council of Zimbabwe has now thrown its weight behind this vision. Cynics question where we will get the wherewithal for this target.

Like I said; in our minds. Singapore is 550 times smaller in area than Zimbabwe, has next to zero minerals and yet has a GDP of nearly US$300 billion, about 30 times larger than Zimbabwe’s. What demonstrates that a change in mindsets unleashes wealth is our friends across the border in Zambia.

In just over a decade they have raised their GDP from less than four billion to US$20 billion. Why not us?

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