FORMER Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa’s appointment last year as Finance minister was generally met with apprehension amid fears he would adopt a belligerent approach informed by his party’s anti-Western stance, thus further alienating potential investors crucial in rescuing the country’s sinking economy.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
As expected it has not been a stroll in the park for Chinamasa in possibly cabinet’s hottest seat and, by his own admission, the enormity of his mission is giving him sleepless nights. “I am not sleeping because I am trying to come up with ideas that may help revive this economy,” he has been quoted as saying.
His task has not been made any easier by rumours he could be headed for the chop for his “clueless” economic turnaround strategies and failure to mobilise local financial resources to improve the welfare of the country’s restive civil servants, among other issues.
Add to that, public criticism from President Mugabe, who has warned him to deliver or “I will get someone else”, and you can imagine Chinamasa, like Greek god Atlas, must feel like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
While so far the minister has precious little to show for his tireless efforts to attract foreign direct investment and a financial bailout package to rescue the economy stuck deep in the doldrums, the public’s perception of him appears to have undergone a makeover.
Despite the limited returns, Chinamasa increasingly comes across as a pragmatist — alive to the fact that Zimbabwe is in a global village and solutions to its economic crisis must, among other policies, include mending bridges with the West.
On Tuesday Chinamasa said: “In the interest of the country we should look everywhere in order to move forward and that means we should look to the East, to the West, to the North and to the South. There should be no area we say we are not looking at to exploit opportunities for our country.”
It is the sort of no-brainer realism we have — as indeed many other stakeholders — been advocating given the parochial nature and anachronism of government’s much-trumpeted Look East policy which, despite perennial claims of “bearing fruit”, has woefully failed to deliver.
Mugabe reoriented the country eastwards around 2003 in response to Western pressure over land invasions and human rights abuses, declaring in 2005 “that is where people who think like us are, same history of colonialism as ourselves, people who have started developing their economies”.
The minister gives the impression he is an eclecticist, taking on board the concerns of government, business, the public, international investors and capital markets.
Addressing captains of industry recently, Chinamasa said the state of the economy requires an inclusive approach where everyone brings forward ideas on how to turn around the economy.
Pity, his efforts have been weighed down by policy discord in government wrought by party hawks that prioritise political considerations ahead of the national interest.
As Chinamasa has bemoaned, it sometimes appears as if ministers are not working for the same government due to policy contradictions.