EARLY this week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government announced it had approved projects worth US$5,3 billion and that these would commence almost immediately.
A total of 11 investment projects had been approved, we learnt. These projects include the joint venture partnership between Verify Engineering (Pvt) Ltd and Magcor Consortium Group of Companies on coal-to-fertiliser manufacturing valued at US$750 million, a joint partnership between Mindlink Holdings and Government of Zimbabwe on establishment of Bullion Bank valued at US$2 billion, and the US$1,1 billion Iron and Steel Company of Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd project for the manufacture of iron and steel in a Special Economic Zone, among other key projects.
Separately, Karo Resources, a company behind a platinum venture in Ngezi, said it would forge ahead with the project and has partnered African Finance Corporation which will provide funding to the tune of US$2 billion. Just two weeks ago, Mnangagwa announced the discovery of oil and gas deposits in Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central province, following a study carried out by an Australian company, Invictus Energy Limited.
Ordinarily, all this would be good news for the country.
But judging by the number of announcements made in the past few weeks alone, there is a deliberate effort by government publicity apparatus to create an impression that government is working around the clock to fix the economy. While investment is good for any country given its strategic economic importance — foreign currency inflows, job and attendant income creation, such announcements have to be backed by real capital inflows to warrant the noise.
Although these announcements are obviously achieving government’s set objective of creating an impression that the economy is recovering, it seems the authorities are needlessly raising expectations of the general populace for political expediency.
In a country with more 90% unemployment rate, such news tends to create a misplaced hope that the troubled economy could be on a recovery path when, to the contrary, the economy is effectively imploding amid chaos in the markets and shops due to currency volatility and shortages. The attempt at a PR coup is also evident in the op-ed placed in the UK’s Financial Times, where Mnangagwa is seen pushing a Thatcherite reformist agenda. In the long run, such political grandstanding and misleading claims do not serve any real and measurable purpose. If anything, it creates a crisis of expectations among citizens.
Worryingly, the actual economic activity on the ground is shrinking such that long-suffering Zimbabweans are asking why they have not felt the impact of these so-called mega deals and claimed billion in capital inflows. Since his appointment last November in the wake of the coup that saw the removal of Robert Mugabe from power, Mnangagwa has made a lot of noise on the investment front as his government moves to position the nation as a safe destination for foreign capital. However, nothing much has been delivered.
Against such a background, these investments should be subjected to parliamentary oversight for transparency and accountability given these deals involve finite national resources.