WHEN the majority of children returned to class on September 28 for the first time since the abrupt closure of schools in March, parents were hit with shocking fees hikes by government schools.
Third term fees rocketed beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the response to it spared no sector, wiping out for example ZW$1 billion (US$12,3 million) from the tourism industry alone. One million workers lost employment.
Government had blamed private schools for extorting money from long-suffering Zimbabweans. But who can explain the madness that is sweeping through State institutions now?
Last month, government said the year-on-year inflation rate tapered off by 101 percentage points to 659% in September, after barrelling to 760% in August. This brought rare hope in a country that has run out of ideas about how to tackle a two-decades-long crisis. It was not all. The central bank told us that the forex currency auction system started in June had improved foreign currency inflows.
But another wave of price hikes erupted, led by State agencies, which must respond immediately to economic trends and government policies because they are key factors in determining the cost of doing business. This is why we got shocked when Zesa hiked power tariffs by unprecedented margins twice in the past two months, even when government claimed the annual inflation rate was decelerating.
Only this week, the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority increased tolling fees by huge amounts. Light vehicles that used to pay a little amount to pass through toll gates, will now need ZW$120 (about US$1,50).
The numbers are as high as ZW$590 (about US$7,30) for large vehicles, which is so surprising because it seems money is being thrown down a bottomless pit since road conditions keep deteriorating.
That aside, Zimbabweans get worried when government says the oceans are clearing, yet its own institutions are preparing for far more brutal storms. The result of huge fee increases in State agencies has seen a corresponding rise in the cost of living to a staggering
ZW$18 000 (US$220) per month for a basic family. As we noted above, State institutions determine the cost of doing business and once the madness erupts within their circles the suffering intensifies.
Something is completely wrong with our statistics. They give companies the impression that the economy is improving and managers plan accordingly only to be caught up by surprises, leaving their numbers not balancing.
Surely, how can they continue trusting the State? This is also why they have started computing their own inflation figures.
We must not have one rate that applies to State agencies, and many others that pop up because government is not being honest with its numbers, or because there is general failure in economic management.
It does not work that way.
Manufactured figures mislead companies. It is clear that the high rate of corporate failures has been underpinned by lies and deception in terms of economic policy and planning. The disarray in State finances stems from government dishonest.