Why is nothing being done?

IF we are agreed that inflation is the country’s number one enemy, why is so little being done about it?

With the news this week that inflation has nudged 1 098,08%, a “mar

ginal” rise of 28,8 percentage points according to the official media, there is growing evidence that the upward surge is unstoppable given the absence of political will to contain it.

When Finance minister Herbert Murerwa recently attempted to caution against quasi-fiscal operations which require printing money, he was slapped down by President Mugabe, who evidently sees nothing wrong with printing money, and confronted with evidence by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono that much of the pleading for the RBZ to find funds for a variety of projects came from Murerwa’s ministry.

Not only have these handouts been wasteful in terms of the unaccountable parastatals into which they have been poured, they are also of course inflationary in terms of the amounts printed and distributed.

We don’t expect Mugabe to offer solutions to the challenge of soaring money supply. He is part of the problem and tends to see all efforts towards economic reform as subversive. Murerwa on the other hand is a prisoner of the political establishment who is sadly unable to put his foot down. He is a decent fellow. But for three consecutive years he has got it wrong on just about every number that counts.

What this leaves is Gono who should have a plan but doesn’t. At least not one we can see! Shouldn’t the Reserve Bank governor be setting targets and advertising them to the country? Shouldn’t he be leading the fight against government waste that includes Chinese jet fighters, a new parliament building, and a Ministry of Public and Interactive Affairs that has yet to interact with the public to the extent of explaining what precisely it does!

Everywhere you look there is over-expenditure and waste because Mugabe believes that fiscal discipline is “bookish” and anyway he needs the money for electoral persuasion. Gono is paralysed because his special relationship with the president is the key to his political fortunes. Instead of cracking a whip he is feeding the beast. Inflation is surging and the latest figure will seem like a gross underestimate to those who actually shop and pay the bills.

It is the single most corrosive factor, apart of course from damaging ruling party policies, in the country today. It eats at bank accounts and thereby discourages a culture of savings. It encourages corruption and bad behaviour by business. It wrecks planning. And it leads to a hand-to-mouth existence that erodes the whole monetary system.

But you wouldn’t know this from any of those charged with its elimination. Zanu PF attempts to divert attention from its delinquency by blaming business, which mostly is struggling to recover the costs of production.

Business in turn pathetically wrings its hands and says as little as possible for fear of provoking the economically illiterate opportunists who constitute Mugabe’s inner circle and deal with the problems they have spawned by arresting first bankers and then bakers.

The only way out of this mess is to provide political leadership for the tough measures that Gono needs to adopt to halt rising expenditure and to increase production, especially that geared to exports. But given the refusal of the regime to stop seizing farms, stop subverting the rule of law, stop giving this country a damaging reputation abroad, and stop behaving badly towards those who, unlike the government, do have solutions to offer, there will be no end to the fiscal chaos and therefore no recovery.

If Gono and Murerwa are genuinely committed to working together to bring sanity to the current situation, why on earth can’t they spell out what needs to be done? Or is the answer: in the present circumstances, nothing. It will just go on getting worse?

This depressing conclusion, obvious to most, should be driven home to the party faithful in Goromonzi this weekend who evidently think we need more of the same.

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