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With advisors like Bloch there’s cause for fear

I WOULD like to correct a perception created by Eric Bloch in his article, “Achieving tourism turnaround”, (Zimbabwe Independent, April 13), that Zimbabwe is an “extremely expensive destination” without mentioning any concrete figures to back this up

. This, coming from someone who is an advisor to the Reserve Bank governor, makes me extremely sceptical of all the so-called turnaround efforts.

For example, comparison of rates charges for hotels, lodges and related services across Sadc would show that Zimbabwean rates are very much on the lower end. Even at Victoria Falls, Zambian charges are much higher than on the Zimbabwean side.

When Bloch says National Parks is charging massively, what is he comparing against?

It seems he is quite happy to pay hundreds of rands in South Africa but wants the paltry charge at the entry points removed, my foot!

He even complains about the minute tax of $1 000 per litre! With this bush economics and the inflation sliding towards 1 000%, while purporting to be doing a turnaround like a merry-go-round, Zimbabweans need to be very afraid about the experts in whom they are putting their faith to deliver them to the promised land.

With such advice being dispensed, it is no wonder that the Reserve Bank can justify printing trillions of dollars with a straight face to pay the IMF.

Instead of using the US$210 million to create economic value to fund essentials such as fertiliser and petrol to create economic benefit which could be used to pay off debts, it was flushed into a bottomless pit.

For example, increasing road tourism from South Africa does not require a large capital outlay. It can start by making sure that Zimra does not treat every person entering Beitbridge as a potential criminal who needs to be sent around in circles from one queue to another by abusive officials.

It can start by putting up proper rails so that there can be orderly queues. It can put some officials on the floor who can talk to customers and ensure that people do not waste hours in wrong queues. 

This can be augmented by making sure that unemployed youths paint the correct road signs such as how far the next town is, directions to the next police post (assuming the police are there and not at the farms!), hospital, petrol station, etc.

It may also be useful to warn motorists about humps on the road before one is three-quarters way into the undulating humps (or better still level them off!).

I spent the Christmas period in Cape Town where I kept bumping into many Zimbabweans. The major reason why someone would spend their holiday at a crowded beach 1 500 km from Johannesburg instead of the nearer shores of Lake Kariba is probably because they are terrified at the prospect of spending frustrating hours at the border. It is not because it is more expensive in Zimbabwe.

It may be useful to put proper toll gates on the major highways and ensure that the money is used to maintain roads. We do not want to turn Zimbabwe into a paradise for parasitic backpackers and hitch-hikers who are looking for the rock-bottom prices being suggested by Mr Bloch.

Real tourists must be prepared to pay for a proper service and that is the market the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority should target as they generate real economic benefit.

Another Zimbabwean problem that has created the “Mafioso” economy is having two prices for the same thing. Even primary school economics will tell you that it is folly to sell diesel at $12 000 for one group while the correct price is $200 000.

Surely, agriculture has not become more profitable than a profit of $188 000 per litre realised in a few days rather than waiting for nine months for a harvest that may not be realised?

If the desire is to support agriculture, is it not more effective to give a rebate of the same amount to the people who deliver their harvest to the GMB after they have procured their requirements on the open market?

Why is this common sense evading these so-called experts presiding over this economy? Or perhaps they are all beneficiaries of mafioso economics and do not care about the hard-working struggling  working class?
 
Tafirenyika Wekwa Makunike,
Midrand, South Africa.

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