HARARE - Zimbabwe's economy is staggering and signs are that if President Robert Mugabe does not alter the course and come up with robust policies, we are doomed.
What is making the situation worse is that elections which ushered in Mugabe as president remain disputed following allegations of massive vote-rigging.
Last month’s elections vanquished any meaningful opposition for the first time in the past decade.
Of the 270 elected parliamentary seats, 197 went to Zanu PF, 70 to the MDC, two to the smaller MDC and one to an independent.
Because of the widespread likelihood of ballot stuffing and vote-rigging, the MDC can only afford to contest 95 of the seats it lost.
It won all the major cities and Zanu PF won all rural areas especially. Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the MDC, is regrouping, remembering how voters severely rebuked Mugabe’s economic and political follies.
Tsvangirai wanted to fix Zimbabwe’s woes: restore law and order and end the leader-led corruption.
Mugabe remains silent and threats of seizures of foreign firms remain in place. Zimbabwe’s once rich economy has endured a precipitous meltdown since 1998.
Government deficits are now as high as 120 percent of GDP, while yearly GDP itself has tumbled from $600 to $300 per capita. GDP growth rates have levelled off. The local dollar has been shelved and the country is using foreign currencies as legal tender.
Zimbabwe is bankrupt.
The state-owned electricity utility has no money to import power, and at any time the country may go dark.
Because Zimbabwe has no foreign exchange, and farmers can make no money on their crops, food shortages are beginning to appear.
They could become serious by September.
In better-managed times, Zimbabwe boasted one of the best-balanced and well-functioning economies in Africa.
But this healthy growth has been undermined by direct government action since 1998.
By engaging in an unplanned and chaotic land reform exercise, government quickly destroyed the equivalent of 20 percent of GDP.
Even worse, Mugabe threatens tit-for-tat action against foreign firms as retaliation for Western sanctions.
He has also vowed to nationalise the mines.
Foreign investors are withdrawing in fear and dismay if the stock exchange’s response to his re-election is anything to go by. Unless Mugabe alters course significantly, emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, much less Western donors, will not be forthcoming.
That help will only arrive when Zimbabwe puts its own house in order.
Local businesspeople suspect that it is too late. If they are right, then this well-educated and once well-run country could become the next Sierra Leone or Congo.
Recovery is possible, but only if Mugabe changes course.