Erich Bloch: Great Expectations

VERY justifiably, a wave of positive confidence flooded across the majority of the Zimbabwean population upon the announcement last week of the long awaited,

very belated, agreement between the country’s three principal political parties to work together to resolve the prolonged, intensely debilitating political hiatus, and to achieve a constructive transformation of the horrendously devastated economy.

The pronounced spirit of hope, in some instances verging upon euphoria, was undoubtedly stimulated by the magnitude of the immense stresses that have been the burden of almost all in Zimbabwe as the economy has, year after year, sunk to ever lower levels.

Those stresses have been fuelled by near all-time record levels of hyperinflation, by cataclysmic degrees of unemployment (within the formal sector), by an almost continuously deteriorating infrastructure, by extreme scarcities of basic commodities and other essentials of life, by the shattering of family units as more and more fled to seek livelihoods in neighbouring territories, and further afield, and by much else.

Inflation has risen to levels very well in excess of 20 million, less than 10% of the employable population is engaged in formal sector employment, almost all households are confronted with electricity supply interruptions for many hours each day (and some for days on end), water supplies are appallingly erratic, and over five million Zimbabweans, being more than a third of population, have left their families in order to strive to sustain themselves and their loved ones with incomes earned outside Zimbabwe.

More than four-fifths of the population are struggling to survive on incomes markedly below the poverty datum line, with many being homeless, unable to fund education for their children, and financially deprived of access to healthcare.

Distraught from all those afflictions which have not only endured for years, but have unceasingly become more and more severe, very many of the Zimbabwean people had lost almost all hope of any positive changes.

They were more and more convinced that suffering and misery, to an ever greater extent, was their lot, to be relieved only by death.

That dismal perspective of their lot became more and more deep-seated as months of intermittent endeavours to achieve a political accommodation appeared to be fruitless, with the negotiating politicians (or some of them) apparently being totally dogmatic and intractable, being only willing to reach agreements which wholly accorded with their will and demands.

Thus, when an agreement was reached last week, suddenly many acquired a ray of hope that the critically needed changes so very necessary would at last be forthcoming, and that better times lie ahead.

That hope is not misplaced, and the political leadership is to be commended for finally concluding an agreement, albeit that it is near unforgiveable that it took so long to materialise, at the expense of a grievously suffering populace.

Provided that the agreement is unreservedly honoured and implemented, and that the politicians unreservedly set aside self-interests and focus wholly and exclusively upon bringing about a real and positive metamorphosis to Zimbabwe, then a great future lies ahead for Zimbabwe and for all Zimbabweans.

However, the expectations that the changes will be instantaneous, and that the distressed circumstances which have bedevilled Zimbabwe will cease forthwith, and misplaced and devoid of credible foundation, driven by desperation instead of by reason and recognition of realities.

Unavoidably, Zimbabwe’s recovery will be long and slow, for the devastation wrought upon Zimbabwe is of such gargantuan magnitude that there just cannot be a “quick fix”.

Many of those measures must be pursued, with great determination and resolve, concurrently, instead of sequentially. Amongst those of greatest urgency are:

*Zimbabwe has to reconcile with those of the international community that it has intensively alienated over the years. Any belief that “Zimbabwe can go it alone” is completely misguided. Virtually without exception, all countries have to interact co-operatively and constructively with the world at large, only distancing themselves from the few that contemptuously disregard international norms of conduct and relationships.

Zimbabwe’s need to do so is magnified by its bankrupt state, which necessitates that pride must be set aside in favour of receiving, and accepting, assistance from others. Without that aid and support, Zimbabwe will continue to be without most of the foreign currency which, Zimbabwe being a highly import-dependant country, is desperately necessary.

The lack of foreign currency is the fuellant of the black markets, and they are pronounced catalysts of the crippling hyperinflation which is a key destroyer of the economy. It is also the biggest cause of productivity decline, which in turn is yet another major cause of intense inflation, and it is a significant factor in the devastating deterioration of the Zimbabwean infrastructure.

The reconciliation with the international community has many needs, including total adherence to the precepts of democracy, respect for human property rights, maintenance of law and order, compliance with international agreements, and cooperation and collaboration instead of insult and abuse.

*The Land Reform Programme must be reformed. It must not be reversed in the entirety, but restructured to be just and equitable, non-discrimatory, devoid of nepotism and corruption, and targetted at full restoration of productivity.

*Economic deregulation is a perquisite. Overly regulated economies have never, ever, succeeded, be they as they were in the former Soviet Union, in China, Cuba, Tanzania, Zambia, or in many other countries. The only economies that succeed on an on-going, continuous basis, are those driven by market-forces, aided by Government, instead of being hindered by endless governmental dictates and controls.

*Zimbabwe needs a truly investment-conducive and welcoming environment, driven by constructive governmental policies (with assurance of continuity thereof), to attract and then maintain both foreign and domestic investment. That investment provides employment, economic growth, foreign exchange generation, Fiscal inflows, technology transfer, and much else, essential for economic recovery, and for unending economic wellbeing.

*Well-managed, economic need-aligned Fiscal polices, with utmost probity and sound management of the State’s finances, contained expenditure within national means, and realistic, non-oppressive, taxation policies.

These are but a few of the many necessary polices and actions of the new, “unity” Government, but if pursued with determination and dedication, and without equivocation, then the great expectations of the populace fuelled by the recent political agreement, will become realities, although not as rapidly as craved for and needed.