HARARE - Zimbabwe is facing a crunch time this week when an International Monetary Fund (IMF) visiting team is expected to give reports on the third and final assessment of the staff-monitored programme which ended on December 31 last year.
The country started working on the IMF-administered programme in 2013 but Zimbabwe has repeatedly missed out on a number of quantitative targets and structural benchmarks such as improving the quality of public expenditures, enhancing financial sector stability and addressing the annual fiscal gap.
This failure to meet targets is not only an albatross around the country’s neck as it is stifling economic growth, but is hindering Zimbabwe from accessing fresh loans from international money-lenders.
Once we succeed to meet the staff-monitored programme targets, which include reducing the civil service wage bill through the retrenchment of staff among other things, this gesture might persuade global financiers to extend cheap loans to the country.
However, the government has been very slow in implementing some of the reforms spelt out in the staff-monitored programme and we are running out of excuses.
President Robert Mugabe’s administration must be reminded that the IMF has been patient with us and agreed — on two consecutive occasions — to extend the programme, arguing that progress in implementing the plan was slowed by a long electoral process and a protracted post-election transition, as well as an adverse external environment.
All what is needed is for the Zanu PF-led government to begin implementing critical economic policies that can help to turnaround the economy.
As things stand, there is no end in sight to the hardships faced by the majority of Zimbabweans. Political uncertainty and economic insecurity have worsened since the controversial July 2013 elections as the country struggles to develop the necessary foundation to underwrite a broad-based and sustainable recovery.
Official figures show only 700 000 people among a population of 13 million have formal jobs, forcing millions of citizens to flee the country in search of greener pastures. At least 90 percent of jobs reside in the informal sector, where reliance on Diaspora remittances remains crucial.
Unless the government institutes strong economic reforms — which is very unlikely in the face of Zanu PF’s nasty and often violent succession and factional fights — conditions are likely to deteriorate further due to insolvency, drought and growing food insecurity, and the exigencies of its venal political culture.
We strongly urge the Zanu PF government to become more accountable, initiate electoral reforms, end human rights and rule-of-law violations and articulate a coherent vision as part of strategies to attract fresh capital.