PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s jet-setting spree came to the fore yet again this week when he cut a lonely and pathetic figure at the United Nations Oceans Summit attended only by two other African heads of state whose countries have coastlines; not landlocked like Zimbabwe which has no territorial oceanic waters.
Comment: Zimbabwe Independent Editor
What was more disturbing, however, was not just his bizarre decision to attend a summit which has little do to with Zimbabwe, but the scandalous waste of public funds on such an extravagant jaunt.
Most Africa countries, some with much better resources than Zimbabwe, including South Africa, sent delegations at ministerial levels or even lower, while some simply did not. This showed the meeting was low-profile and not that important to send a whole president.
Mugabe’s endless foreign trips, including the latest one, are draining taxpayers’ funds, while adding no value to the country. This is typical of the Mugabe regime and how it has mismanaged public resources for 37 years. It is symptomatic of poor governance, skewed priorities and failed leadership of disastrous proportions.
Mugabe, given the current economic situation and government’s bankruptcy, should be leading by example. He should not be attending each and every foreign conference, including some inconsequential meetings where the country could do with a small team led by a minister or a senior government official.
Zimbabwe is facing serious economic difficulties; manifested through the chronic liquidity crunch, cash shortages, bank queues, industry’s low capacity utilisation, falling production, huge imports and current account deficit, retrenchments and company closures.
Due to massive company closures and unemployment, as well as the resultant shrinking tax base and dwindling revenues, government has been rolling over unsustainable budget overruns and deficits, and surviving on Treasury Bills, which now scale US$2 billion.
Banks are struggling to ensure financial intermediation due to the liquidity and cash problems, hence overreliance on the Real Time Gross Settlement, an electronic form of funds transfer where the transmission takes place on a real-time basis.
However, this just works on local transactions and cannot make international settlements. This has created a backlog and further slowed down business and the economy.
Mugabe crossed the Atlantic ocean, flying for about 18 hours, to New York to hobnob with junior officials and diplomats who gathered to discuss progress in implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans and seas when Zimbabwe is a landlocked country.
The long-serving leader chartered the struggling national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, run — or is it rundown — by his son-in-law, to the United States. He left Harare on Saturday to attend the conference from June 5 to today. He is expected back in the country tomorrow.
The president spent US$36 million on his profligate travels in the first 10 months of 2016, piling pressure on a cash-strapped government. At this rate of travel, he will spend much more this year. Mugabe must stop this reckless extravagance or squandering public resources on useless trips. Zimbabwe cannot afford such fiscal profligacy.