Mthuli Ncube, who was appointed Finance minister last week, faces the daunting task of resuscitating the economy amid huge political hurdles and public expectations.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Ncube has tabled an ambitious plan that includes scrapping bond notes, dollarising the economy and joining the Rand Monetary Area. However, despite his iron clad will to turn around the economy, Ncube will look to introduce bold changes in a largely unreformed Zanu PF government that has grown accustomed to living beyond its means and which has a disciple of advancing populist measures ahead of economic rationality.
Despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa pontificating about reforms, he acquired more than 200 vehicles for chiefs just before the July 30 elections.
Although the civil service wage bill gobbles up more than 90% of revenue, Mnangagwa decided to increase salaries of civil servants and soldiers by 17,5 and 22% respectively just before the elections. The two decisions were widely seen to have been driven by the need to woo votes.
Government’s penchant for spending is evidenced by the current budget deficit which hovers around US$2billion.
The Zanu PF system vigorously resisted reforms that were proposed by former finance minister Patrick Chinamasa between 2013 and 2018. In 2016, Chinamasa proposed a raft of reforms in his mid-term fiscal policy which included cutting the salaries of cabinet ministers, closing some of the country’s embassies and retrenching civil servants.
Cabinet threw out his proposals.
What makes it even more difficult for Ncube is that he is not in the structures of Zanu PF, especially the central committee and politburo, where decisions that influence running of government are made.
He will have the unenviable task of dealing with parastatal and state-owned entities which are supposed to be locomotives of growth but have been reduced to virtual shells after being run down by gross mismanagement and corruption.
He will also have to curb travelling excesses that have taken a huge toll on government revenues, part of the culture of profligacy within Zanu PF, among other things.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said Ncube must be allowed by Mnangagwa to bring his own team that prescribes to his vision to turnaround the economy.
“Ncube needs to bring his own crew that subscribes to his paradigm of doing things,” Masunungure said.
“ED should sweep out the old guard that suffocated Chinamasa from operating when he was Finance minister.”
He said Mnangagwa must remove the “asphyxiating” culture not only in the Finance ministry, but also in government as a whole.
“Mnangagwa need to make tough decisions that can facilitate the new minister to make Zimbabwe open for business. Otherwise the “open for business” call will remain just rhetoric, a mantra. He needs to allow Ncube to implement a programme of action that will drive Zimbabwe away from the precipice of collapse,” Masunungure said.