World’s moved on, Chinamasa

AN embarrassing feature of the current Zanu PF government is the fixation with denial and a lingering over-sensitivity to criticism.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

This was on show this week when Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa blew his top at a business symposium because he had been told things he did not want to hear.

Economist John Robertson, who spoke at the same function on Wednesday, said lack of respect for property rights, the indigenisation policy and flawed execution of the land reform programme had ruined industry leading to birth of the informal sector. A miffed Chinamasa regarded this as provocation and told organisers of the event not to invite him to events where “Robertson is allowed to say such things”.

In other words, he would like to be invited to meetings where delegates praise-sing the land reform programme as a major success in a country that is importing food. He wants to hear that the transfer of land to 350 000 new farmers is a great success even if the land cannot be used as security.

He expects business to talk about the success of indigenisation in a country crying out for investment and wants the nation to celebrate the growth of the informal sector.

More shockingly, the minister saw it fit to lay into banks which he accused of implementing “some exit strategy”. Their crime is that they are not organising lines of credit to lend to customers. He even suggested a sinister motive by banks whose commitment to government he questioned. The minister should be reminded that the bulk of new entrepreneurs in the informal sector are not paying taxes; they are draining the economy of foreign currency through imports of sub-standard products. Their business models cannot support or grow this economy.

In short, they are not the solution to the daunting challenge at hand. Chinamasa should not expect this country to get back on the recovery track when he engages in mortal combat with those reminding him of the herculean task the country faces. The sentiments raised by Robertson are not vexatious inventions crafted to irritate government, but stark reality Chinamasa should be grappling with.

He will hear the same issues when he goes abroad to look for developmental assistance and lines of credit. These are the same questions that the Kumbirai Katsande-led private sector team — set to visit Western capitals in search for investment next week — will have to answer. And investors have major worries about the humongous foreign debt which now stands at US$11 billion including arrears. This is the reality of our situation.

We implore Chinamasa to wake up to the reality that Zimbabwe, despite its much-talked-about natural resources, is a high-risk investment destination where government policies have largely remained anti-capital.

An Ernst &Young report last month captured international sentiment on Zimbabwe. It said Zimbabwe was among a group of countries that are “relatively high-risk environments which do not exhibit particularly exciting growth characteristics”.

The country will start to exhibit “exciting growth characteristics” the day there is a concerted effort to respect private sector input in governance. This calls for astute leadership that is willing to take criticism on the chin, admit to mistakes and carefully consider advice.