Mugabe cannot blame Biti

HARARE - Tendai Biti, the minister of Finance, upon assuming his role in the coalition government, described it as the worst job in the world.

“The job is the worst in the world but I will have to look the job in the eye and I have no doubt that I will be equal to the task and will prevail,” he said after his nomination on February 11, 2009.
His remarks were, of course, laden with melodramatic exaggeration for effect. He would know, for instance, the sewer divers of India who unplug drains for a song.  

That Biti’s task is onerous, however, is beyond dispute.

In fact, MDC ministers in government hold particularly troublesome portfolios.

Apart from Biti’s portfolio, Zanu PF — rather cunningly — surrendered the vexatious service ministries to the MDC under the power-sharing agreement; portfolios that relate to the most needed but inadequate basic services such as water, health and electricity.

Add to that the Labour ministry and the understandably restless civil servants.

Zanu PF has never been known for its charity towards the MDC.

It knew that by offloading these bothersome portfolios, it would place the MDC ministers on a collision course with the generality of the public, if not the whole population, desperately in need of these services.

The effect would then be to discredit, for political gain, the holders of those portfolios, at best as incompetent, and at worst, as unconcerned.

Biti, being at the fiscal epicentre of the coalition, is most vulnerable to attacks. His chief attacker is none other than Mugabe.

Mugabe, to drive home his message of peace, has often publicly referred to his cordial relationship with his coalition partners. Addressing his supporters at the weekend, he also condemned violence.

On the political side, his public attacks on Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, water down this message.

These statements are unlikely to engender peace among supporters of these feuding parties at this sensitive time.

Mugabe’s supporters would have left with a renewed sense of political antagonism, not towards Biti but the MDC.

After all, Mugabe approves the budgets.

This is hardly a party political issue; the government is virtually bankrupt, a reality Mugabe cannot accept.  

At the same time, Mugabe insists that Biti must borrow.

But borrowing your way out of a crisis is not a long-term solution; it is even more counterproductive when you continue to borrow in the name of unproductive “new” farmers.

John Nkomo said it; the “new” farmers have failed, 10 years on.

Only this weekend, it was reported the country is saddled with a $10,7 billion debt.

Instead, the country needs to register significant economic growth. Currently, the debt level is 110 percent of GDP. Growth projections have been reduced from 9,4 percent to 5,6 percent.

This economy could have grown faster if Zimbabwe had appropriated the relative peace under the coalition to turn into a more investable destination.

Instead, it chose to promulgate hostile policies inimical to this cause.

Somehow, Mugabe thinks Zimbabwe can still borrow easily.

However, not many international financial institutions want do business with Zimbabwe. Mugabe should know that; he is, in fact, the cause of the financial difficulties.

Mugabe has made this country — which has also failed to meet its financial obligations with these institutions in the past — a pariah state.

He needs to ensure that Zimbabwe is readmitted into the community of nations and benefit from international co-operation.

It had been hoped the discovery of the huge diamond deposits would give a fillip to this sick economy. But then a cloak of secrecy was thrown over the mining operations.

Curiously, Mugabe is reported to have raised $20 million for the agricultural inputs he doled out to his supporters at the weekend. He has not named sources of this finance he now uses for political mileage.
He has, of course, good relations with the Chinese whom he has given a significant stake in our diamonds.

If the MDC were to secure private finance, we would never hear the end of it. Mugabe must come clean.

Biti does have the worst in government; an empty pot, lack of international cooperation and a lack of transparency in government revenue. - Conrad Nyamutata

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