By Faith Zaba
WE are living in perilous times as we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with many countries under partial or full lockdown. Fears about Covid-19 take an emotional toll, especially for those with anxiety disorders.
We are bombarded with information about Covid-19 on social media, television and print media. We are all watching, wondering when the nightmare will end.
Often, newspaper headlines are not helping the situation; fear-mongering stories make the populace helpless. It is like the world is falling apart. The negativity is draining. While it is our job to report on problems and general issues as is, I believe there is need to celebrate positive developments.
This week, Zimbabwe had numerous reasons to celebrate. On Monday, the country received almost US$1 billion as its share of special drawing rights (SDRs) disbursed to IMF members to stimulate growth after economies were severely battered by Covid-19.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said a huge chunk of the US$1 billion kitty will be channelled towards rebuilding dilapidated infrastructure, social services and productive sectors.
The injection of the US$650 billion injected into the global economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will reignite demand on the international commodities markets and lift forex inflows from minerals.
The commission of an oxygen plant, developed by state entity Verify Engineering, in Mutare, Manicaland province, is news worth celebrating.
The plant has an Air Separation Unit (ASU) that produces gaseous oxygen, liquid oxygen, and nitrogen at an installed capacity of 20 tonnes (gaseous oxygen), 16,5 tonnes (liquid oxygen), and 2,5 tonnes (nitrogen) per day.
It will play a key role in the fight against Covid-19, providing medical oxygen for severely ill patients and nitrogen which will be used as a coolant in the storage of vaccines.
The increase in government funded capital projects has seen positive returns in the cement manufacturing and construction sector. There is notable progress on the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Kunzvi Dam, Beitbridge-Harare Highway, Robert Mugabe International Airport and the Emergency Rehabilitation Programme Phase II where various urban and rural roads works are being undertaken.
Government has also increased spending on public infrastructure such as schools, higher tertiary education innovation centres and student accommodation, hospitals and accommodation for the uniformed forces.
Construction of 38 hospitals across the country with radiography, laboratories and state of art equipment are underway, with a 22-bed health institution in Harare South at an advanced state.
Six of the hospitals will have 68 beds. Eight boarding secondary schools in eight provinces, except Harare and Bulawayo, are under construction in marginalised rural areas.
The economy had ended the first half on a positive note, with foreign currency receipts increasing by 29,1% between January and June.
Exports continue to rise both in volume and value since 2019, recording a 3% increase from US$4,3 billion to US$4,4 billion in 2021. During the first five months of 2021, exports increased by 13% to US$1,7 billion from US$1,5 billion, recorded during the same period in 2020. The increase has resulted in a positive current account balance.
Additionally, foreign currency auction system introduced last year helped companies access US$1,7 billion for importing raw materials and equipment, averting an industrial crisis.
The government has reduced money supply and tamed inflation to 56,37% compared to 2019 and 2020 figures.
However, corruption and smuggling of precious minerals are the biggest threat to sustained economic growth. The country is losing billions to such illicit financial flows. There is need for political will to tackle this cancer.
Taxation levels are some of the highest on the continent. High taxes, especially on petroleum, increase production costs. Electricity tariffs are also very high.
Areas that need prioritisation include the signing of the new Mines and Minerals Bill to ensure mining transparency; moving to a market determined foreign exchange rate mechanism; further reducing out-of budget financing and quasi fiscal activities to reduce inflation to a single digit figure; streamlining domestic taxes and trade procedures; title deeds on land; diversifying energy production and living wages for civil servants.