Does Gono still carry govt’s brief?

AS if to register disapproval of central bank governor Gideon Gono’s criticism of government’s indigenisation policy in the Mid-Term

Monetary policy statement on Monday, Senate the following day ratified the Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill without amendments.

Gono in his statement cautioned that there was need for a fine balance “between the objectives of indigenisation and the need to attract foreign investment”.

He also revealed that there were senior government officials who wanted to attract wealth to themselves in stark contrast to the spirit of the legislation. He also said he wanted to see government moving quickly to finalise mining legislation to remove the cloud of uncertainty which has militated against investment in the sector.

As Gono implored government to tread cautiously on the Indigenisation Bill, President Mugabe had a completely different view on the issue. In typical sabre-rattling, Mugabe waved his fist at big business and threatened to chase away foreign-owned companies that did not dance to government’s discordant tune. The senate appeared to listen to Mugabe and passed the legislation.

For a long time in his eventful tenure as governor, Gono has positioned himself as government’s handyman in fixing the economy. He has said he represents the interests of his “principals” in the economic turnaround exercise. This week he struck a different chord. He said he was an advisor and his principals “were at liberty, without offence or obligation, to accept in full or in part, or differ wholly or in part with such advice…”

We have consistently said Gono’s policies — no matter how prudent — are bound to fail as long as there are no concomitant changes to the politics. Of late, Gono has displayed a different outlook from that of his principals in charting the turnaround plan. Despite his attempts to paper over the cracks, the differences are now too obvious to miss.

Gono believes in a free market economy in which foreign direct investment and protection of property rights are key. His chief principal President Mugabe does not share this notion and has made no secret of it. President Mugabe is a good student of control politics. He believes that the role of government is to superintend over all aspects of life, notwithstanding the state’s incompetence in most areas of administration.

The differences of opinion between the two were evident in July when Gono openly voiced his displeasure at government’s price controls which he likened to the US invasion of Iraq. He has tried to downplay these differences by stating that the rebuke was “merely to urge” government to exercise restraint in its dealings with business.

In his monetary statement this week, however, Gono refers to “pricing madness”, a phrase which can be attributed to the high prices which were charged by industry prior to the July edict. It could also refer to government’s reaction to the high prices and rightly so. Gono on Monday suggested that the way to go was the revival of the Social Contract through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum. He set up a fund to help industry restore production to pre-June 18 levels. This is a loud statement to Mugabe to say “look at how you have killed this economy”.

The dissonance between Mugabe’s threatening airport speech and Gono’s mollifying pronouncements at the Conference Centre on Monday can only raise one key question of whether Gono still carries the brief of President Mugabe’s government in the arduous task of mending this economy. Gono has said he should not be printing money to subsidise industrialists and farmers but is being forced to do so because of politics.

He says he would prefer to be cocooned in his office than stick out his neck on key policy issues the way he did this week. He is more visible because there are people in government who are sleeping on the job.

Gono this week basked in the limelight where he gathered business people to applaud his interventions and at the same time rapped the knuckles of truant government ministers. This was a show of strength which advertised a message to the nation that he is a better alternative to the Zanu PF masters of chaos. Through QFAs he has come up with a parallel budget which could be larger than Finance minister Samuel Mumbengegwi’s supplementary estimates announced last month. He is running his own sideshow.

As his intermittent interventions continue to fail, he appears to be developing an independence which could make him a threat rather than an ally of the strong and famous in the Zanu PF government. Perhaps his statement this week was mere bluff and he will come out in full support of price controls and the Indigenisation Bill!

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