Is govt finally waking up to the crisis?

NOT that anyone needs reminding but the New Year is here. But owing to the continued economic hardships and gloomy prospects for 2015, most Zimbabweans are unlikely to prefix “New Year” with “Happy”.

Candid Comment Stewart Chabwinja

Many have long since dispensed with the traditional New Year accompaniment, resolutions — an exercise in futility in Zimbabwe’s economic environment steeped in uncertainty. Folks have already fastened their seatbelts for 2015 in anticipation of yet another bumpy ride — no pun on the current shocking state of the country’s roads intended.

Government has already slashed growth projections for 2015 from 6,4% to just 3,2%, with some economists putting it lower at a mere 1%.

As pointed out elsewhere in this issue by one of our columnists, Zimbabwe will carry the obstinate challenges of 2014 into 2015 and these include negative perception, lack of confidence, high risk aversion, lack of export competitiveness and economies of scale, sluggish growth of the world economy, high country risk and negative effects of sanctions.

Last year the extent of the country’s economic meltdown — more than the shocking statistics on company closures, retrenchments and the unemployment rate, among others — was brought to the fore by government’s unprecedented move to initially shift pay dates, and later failure to guarantee them altogether.

Going into 2015, the spectre of government failing to meet its salary obligations looms even large. Depressing indeed.

So gazing into the crystal ball, what pleasant surprises, if any, can 2015 possibly have? How much should we read into media reports suggesting government has rolled up its sleeves and hit the ground running this year to tackle the plethora of crises threatening to sink our once robust economy?

According to state media reports over the past week, government is updating the Batoka power feasibility study; has taken action against the rot at the Zimbabwe National Road Administration and the State Procurement Board (SPB); Zimbabwe and Russia (both facing economic trouble and under Western sanctions) are implementing “mega projects”, with the Russians also eyeing Zimbabwe’s beef industry (or what’s left of it!); a US$1,3 billion highway dualisation project is set to start; while a major shake up at SPB is underway.

At this rate of implementation and mega-dealing, Zimbabweans are likely to start experiencing some of the changes they have been yearning for as long as they can remember. But sceptics, who are in the majority, will find the implementation blitz doubtful, especially as it comes when the Zanu PF government has abjectly failed to deliver on any of its election promises, while its economic blueprint remains dead in the water.

Then there is also the matter of “mega deals” with China from last year which are yet to assume concrete form. What better way for government to deflect persistent criticism over its calamitous economic record and raise fading hopes than to project itself as seized with turning around the economy.

It could well be that government has woken up and smelt the coffee as far as solving the economic crisis — well into its second decade — is concerned, but that would amount to a paradigm shift.