THERE are two professions whose members enjoy high levels of public confidence and respect because of integrity levels displayed by those admitted into their leagues — banking and academia.
Zimbabwe’s Finance minister Mthuli Ncube belongs to both. But his recent attempt to mislead Zimbabweans into accepting that the economy is stable in the midst of excruciating pain is not only an insult to an educated population but also at variance with what is expected of bankers.
He knows what happens when bankers do not tell the truth to nations as he was a victim when his banking group, Barbican, collapsed when bankers, politicians and their cronies took advantage of their strategic positions to manipulate markets for personal gains.
We refer to his recent statement that everything was fine in Zimbabwe.
Perhaps what Zimbabweans have been subjected to by Ncube bears testimony to what happens when elites pamper themselves with fat pay cheques in a country that is on its knees.
Perhaps the following are practical economics lessons that Ncube missed. But an economy will not be fine when it is hyperinflationary like Zimbabwe is at 131% annual inflation this month.
An economy will not be healthy when its currency loses value by margins of up to 12% every two weeks. There is nothing right in an economy whose currency is being rejected by all including authorities who give orders to print it.
When nearly eight million people out of a population of about 15 million are threatened by famine and starvation, it becomes sheer cruelty to boast that they are fine.Global brands have been trooping out of Zimbabwe. Standard Chartered Plc threw in the towel early this year. In the past four weeks, Zimbabwe has lost Holcim, the global cement maker which divested from Lafarge.
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Russia’s Great Dyke Investment has moved out of the US$4 billion Darwendale platinum project. Zimplow has lost its Caterpillar dealership. The economy has been buffeted by forex shortages; its industries are firing at only a fraction of their installed capacity. Zimbabweans are looking for answers.
Instead, they have been deceived through massaged data and political muscle flexing. Ncube seems to have decided to pursue the same strategy that ended with him losing Barbican — turning to half-truths to achieve selfish political gain for the ruling Zanu PF.
When top bankers do not tell the whole truth, markets go haywire.
When top bankers choose mistruths, economies are immediately hit by bankruptcies.
It is worse when the key player in the misinformation is a top banker himself and Minister of Finance and Economic Development because his word carries significant implications on how companies make decisions.
For now, Ncube has the latitude to misinform. When things turn really bad, he will realise that no amount of deception will save Zimbabwe.