THE promised “mega deals” will be scrutiny again with news that Chinese President Xi Jinping is due in Zimbabwe on a state visit next month “to take the two countries’ growing economic and political relations and co-operation to a whole new level”.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
This comes hot on the heels of investment deals with Belarus (considered Europe’s remaining outpost of dictatorship), to bring in machinery for various sectors. And that was soon after 21 Indian companies reportedly expressed interest in investing in various sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy, ranging from energy to tourism, during a meeting with President Mugabe at the recent India-Africa Forum Summit.
You could go on and on, since Zimbabwe has received a stream of business delegations from the likes of the European Union states including the UK and France, Scandinavian nations, China, Russia and Turkey and signed several deals to help drag the country out of its economic rut.
Sadly, what has remained a constant despite efforts to lure critical investment is the negative sentiment regarding the economy’s short-term prospects. The lot of Zimbabweans continue to endure extreme hardships, with economic indicators suggesting things are getting tougher, not better as promised by the difficult-to-believe Zanu PF government.
They keep asking the same questions: Where are the promised jobs? Why is service delivery not improving? When will government clamp down on corruption? Will things ever get better in Zimbabwe?
While it’s accepted there is no quick-fix to the monumental challenges dogging the economy, it is all the more reason why the stack of memorandums of understanding and deals should be implemented in the shortest time possible. There has been little in that regard, with most of the mega deals — which have pointedly failed to arouse optimism — remaining mere statements of intent.
Hopefully, Xi’s visit would be the catalyst to crystallising agreements signed last year into concrete projects, pronto. “All-weather friends” they might be, but the Chinese will not rush headlong into implementation. As first reported in this paper, they are wary of leakages in government caused by lack of controls and bad corporate governance, while Zimbabwe has also been failing to repay loans totalling about US$1,5 billion provided by the Chinese, among other red flags. Hence the Chinese are, like other investors, not here for charity or to buddy-buddy, but profitable business.
On Wednesday night former cabinet minister Fay Chung launched her book Zimbabwe Looking East in which she pokes holes in the Look East policy.
“Until and unless Zimbabwe uses what little resources it has more judiciously for developmental purposes rather than for short-term political support, it will fail to develop. It is totally unsound to expect development to come from the East or from the West. Development will come from internal drives,” writes Chung.
For political expediency the Xi visit is being touted as a “boon for the Look East” shibboleth. Government can look wherever it likes, but without drastic reforms agreements in Zimbabwe will not sufficiently translate to investment.