A TOP banker in Zimbabwe says business executives should speak out their concerns on President Robert Mugabe’s policies and economic developments in the country as the southern African country regroups after protests against the government earlier this month.
George Guvamatanga, the managing director of Barclays Zimbabwe has said that business leaders should speak out on issues affecting business and investment in the country. He however said that it was still possible to salvage the economic situation in the country but only if the “right things are done”.
Barclays Zimbabwe is one of the oldest and strongest banks in Zimbabwe. Barclays plc said recently it was selling down its interests in Africa, including Barclays Zimbabwe. Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara has since shown keen interest in obtaining some of the bank’s assets on the continent.
“We have challenges in this economy but it’s not fair to compare them with 2008. But if we don’t do the right things, it is possible to move back into the darkest place (2008 hyper-inflation),” said Guvamatanga.
He said Zimbabwe’s current economic troubles are easy to fix and blamed investor scepticism and low productivity in the economy on poor policies.
Zimbabwe is projected to grow by below 1.5% this year and faces an uphill task in pacifying international finance institutions such as the World Bank and IMF in order to unlock fresh funding.
The IMF said this month that Zimbabwe should pay back its arrears first before any consideration for new funds can be entertained. Traditional foreign investors are also keeping their money away from Zimbabwe, citing placid regulatory and operating policies they say raise uncertainty.
“The economy is simple to fix and one of the ways to fix this economy is making fact based policies. People can’t just wake up and pronounce policies,” said Guvamatanga.
Most Zimbabwean executives shy away from publicly commenting against government policies. Guvamatanga urged them to speak out, calling upon the executives to “be bold enough” in voicing their concerns.
“I would encourage all the other executives to be bold enough. The other right thing we have to do is production; people were given land but they have not been utilising that land.”
He said Zimbabwe was still importing potatoes, maize, tomatoes, beans and other agricultural produce yet it has abundant land and a favourable climate. However, the past year has been dominated by dry weather conditions occasioned by El Nino that has lead to water shortages for irrigation and for power generation.
“If we do not fix our agricultural production issues, that is our own problem; we are not productive because some of the people who have land do not have the capacity and willingness to produce. Power is now much better but we still need to fix it,” said Guvamatanga.
Zimbabwe took over land previously owned by white commercial farmers in 2000 and parcelled it out to black Zimbabweans, most of them inadequately tooled and unskilled. Most of the land is lying idle and the government is now trying to push banks in Zimbabwe to fund the black farmers.