Eric Bloch: Zim: A man-made economic hell

ALTHOUGH the occasion was the funeral of his beloved sister, Sabina Mugabe, undoubtedly intended to pay tribute to, and mourn the departure of the deceased, president Robert Mugabe apparently felt it was an apposite occasion to inform Western countries that they should “go to hell, to hell, to hell”. 

It was presumably his intent to demonstrate to them his contempt, and his anger and fury, at the continuance of alleged economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, and to demonstrate that Zimbabwe has no intention to succumb to the pressures, which it perceives are being applied by the countries for political change in Zimbabwe.
However, even if that was the intended message, which it surely was, some may well have construed it differently.  Many Zimbabweans could easily have perceived the president’s statement to be an invitation to the Western countries to come to Zimbabwe. Innumerable Zimbabweans are convinced that the country has become hell and despite the recurrent political attribution of blame to the Western countries, are firmly of the justifiable belief that Zimbabwe’s transformation to hell is almost entirely at the instance of the political hierarchy, and especially that hierarchy that ruled absolutely prior to the coming into being of the so-called “inclusive” government.
The harsh realities of life in Zimbabwe are that almost nine-tenths of the population struggle to survive, having incomes well below the poverty datum line.  Even worse, more than half of the population has income below the food datum line, being the minimum required for basic and essential foodstuffs necessary for the avoidance of malnutrition and associated ill-health and jeopardy to life.  Tens of thousands cannot afford accommodation, cannot fund education for their children, and do not have the resources to access health care, even when most desperately needed.  All these distressing and grievously discomforting and life-threatening circumstances are compounded by associated discomforts of erratic power supplies and water delivery, minimal refuse collection, defective sewerage systems and diverse other service inadequacies of parastatals and local authorities, as well as grossly excessive authoritarianism of  many civil servants in general, and numerous of the police force in particular.
Government’s repeated claims are that these disastrously catastrophic circumstances are by-product consequences of actions by Western countries in general, and former colonialist countries in particular, with an objective of undermining Zimbabwe’s political regime, and of recolonising the country.  Such allegations are blatantly devoid of substance.  On the one hand, all of the Western countries have progressively and steadfastly sought to rid themselves of any and all colonies, they in the main having become naught but burdens, and the principle of colonialism having become internationally anathema.  On the other hand, the innumerable ills that have afflicted Zimbabwe have been almost wholly of an economic nature, irrefutably caused by ill-conceived government policies and by endless gross mismanagement of the economy by the state.
While it cannot be denied that international sanctions upon Zimbabwe have had negative economic consequences, and minimised the lot of the populace, the extent thereof has been minimal as compared with the horrendous consequences of the government’s innumerable ill-considered acts of commission and omission. 
The most pronounced of the international sanctions is a bar on approximately 200 of Zimbabwe’s political hierarchy and associates from travel to and in Western countries (save when on United Nations’ related activities). That bar has had no impact upon the wellbeing of Zimbabweans.  A further sanction precludes lendings by the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank), but irrespectively, those entities have been precluded from providing funding to Zimbabwe, because of her prolonged defaults in debt settlement.  The only real economic sanction applied by any of the international community is that there can be no economic interactions with the Zimbabwean government, its parastatals, and other entities in which it (or any of the political hierarchy) hold equity. 
But the effect of that sanction is very limited, as compared to all Zimbabwe’s other economic ills, for the entities subjected to the sanctions not only access inputs from countries that have not imposed sanctions (generally being in the Far and Middle East), but are so appallingly mismanaged, and subject to diversion of funds by government and those in political authority, that they are in any event unable to service adequately the needs of the economy and of the people.
The causes of the economic misery which afflicts Zimbabwe, over and above the immense disservice of most parastatals, are manifold.  Government vigorously destroyed the very foundation of the economy; agriculture, by resorting to a diabolically ill-conceived land reform policy, heedless of the innumerable warnings and cautions given to it.  That deprived the populace of basic foodstuffs, occasioned unemployment for over 300 000 (and therefore, with their dependants, poverty for almost 2 million).  Concurrently, for almost 30 years government was oblivious to, or intentionally condoned, gross state deficit budgeting, compounded by intense corruption.  Addressing its illiquidity in a most destructive manner, it resorted to endless printing of money, unbacked by reserves.  That was the key trigger of the most pronounced hyperinflation ever to be experienced anywhere in the world at any time in recorded history.
When belatedly in 2009, government began to contain its economic mismanagement, and to take actions necessary for economic recovery –– with some very significant positive effects –– it clearly perceived that recovery to be abhorrent.  Reversing all the substantive achievements in the first year of operation of the “inclusive” government, it enacted Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Regulations designed to enhance the wealth of the favoured few, rather than the economically beleaguered population. It did so in a manner which reversed the slow restoration of business confidence that had developed in 2009, and which completely alienated the potential investor community, both foreign and domestic.  Investment was, and is, a prerequisite of Zimbabwe’s economic wellbeing, with especial emphasis upon foreign exchange generation, employment creation, growth in economic activity, enhanced revenue flows to the fiscus, and much else.
Compounding that alienation of the investor community, government intensified its endlessly unproductive courtship of China and other Far East countries, and equally authoritarian states such as Iran.  While doing so, it also became increasingly voluble in its castigation of Western countries, thereby yet further discouraging much needed investment, and gravely discouraging critically needed development aid, let alone any cessation of those international sanctions applied against Zimbabwe.  In so doing, the megalomaniac and paranoiac elements of government successfully transformed Zimbabwe from a potential economic paradise to a pronounced economic hell.
Comprehensive, nationally-beneficial economic recovery and wellbeing required extensive political policy changes, but will also be dependant upon cordial and harmonious, mutually beneficial and constructive relationships with almost the entirety of the international community, including both Western and Eastern countries. 
Hopefully, therefore, the West will accept President Mugabe’s invitation to go to hell, being to come to Zimbabwe, which is a politically created economic hell, and that Zimbabwe will welcome the Western invitees unreservedly.  Then, albeit over a period of time, the hell can become a paradise!

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