Privatisation is the only solution

HARARE - It does not need a rocket scientist to revive government’s struggling parastatals, including national airline Air Zimbabwe (Airzim).

This week, Airzim’s board — chaired by bank executive Ozias Bvute — told Parliament’s portfolio committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals (Seps) that there is urgent need to appoint a substantive chief executive. And we tend to agree.

Bvute also said the airline was re-engaging its pilots and cabin crew to avert further strikes and again this is a welcome development.

Well, fair and fine. These seem to be necessary measures.

But the best solution to the problems in parastatals — including Agribank, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Zesa Holdings, Tel*One and Cold Storage Commission — is that they must privatise.

Government just has to privatise these perennial loss makers.

It has to partner private investors who have the financial muscle and expertise to run these companies.

Looking at the Airzim situation, we believe re-engaging the pilots and appointing a substantive chief executive is the starting point but Bvute must lead the airline towards privatisation.

Bvute and the substantive chief executive are expected to turn around the financially-troubled national airline, saddled with a $188 million debt, a reputation in tatters and mounting competition from other regional and international airlines.

Recently, Transport ministry’s permanent secretary Munesuishe Munodawafa conceded that the situation at Airzim was dire saying the huge debt overhang was scaring away potential partners and investors.

But who are these investors? Bvute and government must structure a deal that also caters for the huge debt at AirZim.

Of course Bvute and his board found these problems there.

But we believe they were appointed to revive the airline and we hope they will succeed.

While we wait for privatisation, government must also come in big time to support AirZim like what happens even in South Africa where the country financially bankrolls South African Airways.

We are sure Seps minister Gorden Moyo has been looking into the privatisation of these institutions since time immemorial.

These institutions cannot survive on their own. They are not in business, but parasites.

In 2011, Moyo said privatisation and restructuring process of identified public enterprises was being slowed partly due to lack of commitment from line ministries and management of the enterprises.

Surely, government officials should move away from this self-preservation culture and instead recognise the immense economic benefits that would accrue from privatisation of these enterprises.

Government needs to come out of its cocoon to pave way for privatisation without further delay. - Staff Writer

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