Biti's diamond headache

HARARE - In the aftermath of Finance minister Tendai Biti’s state of the economy address Thursday, one cannot help but sympathise with the man due to the dire numbers and situation this country finds itself in.

On one hand, the feisty lawyer is under pressure to find money for civil sector bonuses and fund agriculture, among other critical goals, yet revenue collection has been performing badly.

According to Biti, diamond revenue — a major source of income and anticipated relief to Zimbabwe’s budgetary constraints — remains elusive and this one particular issue, and that alone, remains one of the single largest stumbling blocks to national development if not urgently reviewed.

From a projected $600 million that was due to  come from stone sales this year, only a measly $41 million has trickled into national coffers to date, thus forcing a downward revision of the country’s growth targets to just under six percent, the Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general tells us.

While Biti has noted some relative improvements in other areas such as the tobacco and gold mining sectors, there are obvious signs that the economy is under pressure and under-performing somehow.

Coupled with the country’s never-ending political troubles, bickering and policy inconsistencies, the picture remains gloomy and unimpressive overall.

And in these circumstances, can one escape the conclusion that it would take anything out of a miracle for this quagmire to go away and for a turnaround to be achieved.

For instance, how can a nation which has exported $460 million worth of diamonds continue to survive on such a pittance?

And in all this madness, is Zimbabwe really out of options or solutions to solve this conundrum, among the many debilitating issues in our beloved republic?

And if it were not for the country’s petty politics, we would say it’s an emphatic no and perhaps this is the time to try such instruments as Biti’s diamond policy, in a bid to improve accountability and optimisation of such sectors as the gem industry.

Whether President Robert Mugabe and his other political players want it or not, these are some of the bold measures or steps the country needs to take in order to stop the haemorrhage in the economy and where a critical resource is selling at a discount due to an opaque operating structure or system.

With this dire situation, it is not time for Zimbabwe’s main political actors to be bogged down in frivolous issues such as homosexuality in the new constitution, but to knuckle down some serious measures to fix this broken economy.


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