Erich Bloch: Opportunity knocks again

THE Zimbabwean economy has been so devastated that its redemption necessitated that government give absolute priority over all else to achieving restoration of economic wellbeing. But, at no time since the disastrous economic decline began, in 1997, was government willing to do so.

Admittedly, it continuously alleged that the country’s economic wellbeing was one of its primary concerns and that it was determinedly addressing it. 
Concurrently, it intensely sought to divert any allegations that it was to blame for the dismal state of the economy, doing so speciously, repeatedly attributing culpability to others and, as a by-product of so doing; it intensified and accelerated the economic decay.
This was particularly pronounced in recent months as, concurrently with ever faster, and ever greater, economic melt-down, presidential, senatorial and parliamentary elections approached. Desperate to retain the power it had held for 28 years, and determined not to be held responsible for the overwhelming suffering that was the life for most of the Zimbabwean population; government strove never endingly to ascribe the economic morass to others.
This contention  was constantly, and raucously  made by the pre-election government, founded primarily  upon the absence of balance of payments support and other funding from the International Monetary  Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and diverse other international funding agencies.
The claim that the sanctions were “illegal” was founded upon such sanctions not having been decided upon by the United Nations, but there is no international law which binds all members of the United Nations to determine their international relations and their funding policies only in accord with the United Nations decisions. Each and every country has the right to decide who to trade with, who to benefit from investment, and so forth. Thus, the United States and the United Kingdom had, and have, a perfect right to exercise their IMF votes against that institution funding any particular country.  Were this not so, what is the point of the IMF structure providing for member states to cast votes (including some, who are the biggest contributors, having veto powers)?
Moreover, no country or person in its right mind would lend and advance monies to countries that are potentially bad debtors, their economies being such as are unable to honour repayment commitments. That is especially so when the country desirous of borrowing already has prolonged instances of debt service default, and that is certainly so of Zimbabwe. For many years Zimbabwe failed to repay international, long overdue, debt. 
Very courageously, and most conscious of the debt defaults, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono sought, as far as he was able, to make good on the defaults, and in 2006/7 he succeeded in partially reducing the considerable arrears, but notwithstanding, Zimbabwe remained a delinquent debtor, and remains so. Despite this, it has the blatant effrontery to take umbrage at not being the recipient of further international funding and support, and at the US and UK for their role in the withholding of that funding and support.
To reinforce the grossly unfounded attacks upon the western powers, government   unreservedly claimed that their alleged endeavours to destroy the Zimbabwean economy was partially  as a revenge  for Zimbabwe’s  displacement of white farmers and nationalisation of  land,  and partially to facilitate  a recolonisation  of independent Zimbabwe.
It was not prepared to accept that the actual motivations for the international reservations on Zimbabwe were that its government had contemptuously, and repeatedly, flouted the fundamental principles of respect for human rights, and those of genuine democracy, recurrently breached the international bilateral investment protection agreements to which Zimbabwe was a partner, failed to maintain and respect law and order, and endlessly pursued policies that were destroying the economy.
Concurrently, the Zimbabwean government unceasingly and scathingly criticised and attacked its perceived first world enemies, belittling and denigrating them and their governments with torrents of vituperative insults.
Government was so paranoid, and so convinced of its own omnipotence and infallibility, that it steadfastly failed to recognise that the principal causes of the near total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy were wholly, or at the least almost entirely, caused by it. It was government that:
lDestroyed agriculture, which was the foundation of the country’s economy, first by  expropriating  the lands and displacing thousands of productive farmers, and hundreds of thousands of farm workers; then by most ineffective redistribution and  resettlement   of some of those lands, mainly  to  a favoured, highly-connected few, and extensively  to those lacking skills or resources, or the will,  to use the lands productively, and a repeated failure of government to provide or enable access to necessary  resources, and delayed availability of inputs;
lFuelled massive hyperinflation by gross overspending, far beyond its means, funded by excessive printing of monies and equally excessive recourse to borrowings, and significantly  exacerbated by a failure to align fiscal and monetary policies, failure to accord the central bank with genuine autonomy and independence, and obligating it to  engage in quasi-fiscal  activities which should have been addressed by government;
lContinuously destroyed the availability of necessary foreign exchange for the operations of the economy. On the one hand, government constantly resisted necessary devaluations of the Zimbabwe dollar, required to compensate for the impacts of inflation upon exporters’ operating costs. As a result, the viability of mining operations, manufacturing, tourism, and foreign currency generators was brought  to near total destruction;
lFailed to provide an investment-welcoming and conducive environment, necessary to attract the investments that would yield foreign exchange, employment creation, access to state- of-the-art technologies, and penetration of export markets. Instead,  it generated legislation designed  to expropriate foreign-owned equity, it revoked or breached agreements, it pursued pronounced, counter-productive bureaucracy, and  applied unrealistic taxation policies; and these are but a few of the catastrophic governmental accountabilities for the abysmal state of the Zimbabwean economy.
However, now that the “harmonised” elections are effectively over, opportunity to reverse Zimbabwe’s economic ills knocks once again. The new government of today can grasp the many nettles grown by the pre-election governments,  can reverse the foolhardy, cataclysmic economic policies that have bedeviled Zimbabwe since 1997, and can dynamically, innovatively, and positively, pursue  economic and other policies previously seen as anathema, but  critically and absolutely necessary, if there is  to be an economic transformation, and a progressive  restoration of wellbeing for the millions of distressed Zimbabweans, albeit that such restoration will unavoidably be long and slow. Will today’s government have the will and ability to do so for, if not, Zimbabwe has no future, other than one of extreme misery and distress, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions?