2017: A not-so happy new year

HARARE - The bad news for long-suffering Zimbabweans, after experiencing one of the worst years since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1980, is that 2017 looks set to be another grim one, as the economy continues to die and the warring ruling Zanu PF girds itself for next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.

Economic experts who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday said even the country’s bumbling authorities were aware of this sad reality, hence the gloomy outlook in under-pressure Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s recent budget announcement, in which he steeply revised downwards the country’s economic growth prospects to an optimistic 0,6 percent.

At the same time, these analysts also warned that the looming 2018 national elections would likely see President Robert Mugabe and his government working harder to effect “even more destructive” populist policies, in their desperate endeavour to retain power.

As if this was not bad enough, political observers also predicted that the country’s deepening economic rot — manifested by worsening cash shortages, rising food prices and the shockingly high unemployment and poverty levels that now obtain in the country — would see Mugabe, who turns a very mature 93 next month, facing even bigger resistance to his 37 years in power, both within and outside Zanu PF.

Former Finance minister and now leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Tendai Biti, was among those who warned that the economy was set to continue on its downward slide, unless Mugabe stepped down.

“Zimbabwe is at a cross roads and to get salvation it requires a collective team of leaders that is brave, honest, strategic and decisive. To the extent that the Zimbabwean crisis is largely political, a political solution is a pre-condition to the resolution of the crisis.

“Since 2013, there has been a consistent decline in the revenue being collected by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, from the prime position where it was 32 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, to 23 percent in 2016.

“De-industrialisation and declining capacity utilisation leakages, corruption and the increased informalisation of the economy are some of the major contributors to the declining revenue,” Biti said.

Afghanistan-based political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, while citing the 2018 national elections, also said 2017 was likely to be worse than 2016, as politics would likely “dominate everything”.

“Unless something drastic in the line of Mugabe stepping down happens, my prognosis for 2017 is bleak. As you know, 2016 was characterised by rudimentary government economics and this will not change.

“We will also begin to feel the adverse impact of bond notes from about March. Civil servants’ pay dates will also continue to be big news and deflationary pressures will continue as before, as there is no cogent strategy or policy to boost production.

“Corruption will also continue to be big news as always, and we will continue to be a net importer of food and basic goods, with a clueless regime putting up more measures that affect consumers negatively,” Saungweme told the Daily News On Sunday.

The spokesperson of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, Obert Gutu, said bluntly that economic prospects in 2017 were “dim”.

“The national economy is now virtually fully informalised and government revenue streams will continue to dwindle in the new year.

“Without the injection of new big money into Zimbabwe’s economy, the new year promises to be a year of heightened socio-economic suffering for the majority of the people,” he said.

Economist and legislator, Eddie Cross, said only the country’s suffering populace held the keys to change their worsening lot, as they did in 2016 when they staged endless protests.

“Unless we are prepared to disrupt the status quo and force change, no changes are likely and the conditions that beset us in 2016 will persist in 2017, including a shrinking economy, declining revenues to the State and an unsustainable national budget,” he warned.

In July last year, Mugabe faced arguably one of the biggest challenges to his rule, after fed up citizens staged a massive general strike, which led to questions being asked as to whether the unprecedented stay-away, dubbed Shutdown, marked the beginning of the end for the increasingly frail nonagenarian and Zanu PF.

Panicking authorities then resorted to thuggish tactics to foil the emerging new spirit of resistance, with heavily armed riot police descending mercilessly on hapless protesters who were toyi-toying against the country’s collapsing economy.

The brutal crackdowns against vendors and pro-democracy activists in particular triggered an outpouring of anger among Zimbabweans, who were shocked by the police’s heavy-handedness.

Presenting his budget in December last year, Chinamasa slashed the economic growth prospects for 2017, as the country continues to grapple with the twin challenges of deepening political turmoil and a devastating drought that has left an estimated four million citizens requiring food aid.

Chinamasa also revealed that the country, despite its imposition of import bans, was still expected to record a budget deficit of $1,18 billion — more than seven times the earlier forecast of $150 million.

As a result, civic leader Gladys Hlatywayo also warned that 2017 was likely to be “a continuation of the problems experienced in 2016”.

“The current economic woes are likely to increase and the deafening decibels of political rhetoric are also likely to increase as we get closer to the 2018 elections, as the different players position themselves for power.

“The tired leadership in power will continue to be at the helm of the affairs of the State and its tired policies. And as long as this tired leadership is in power, we are doomed to poverty, hunger, 16th Century diseases, long queues for everything, and high unemployment among a host of problems facing our motherland,” she said grimly.

Saungweme concurred with Hlatywayo, also warning of likely electoral violence which he said would stem from robust early campaigns’ ahead of the 2018 polls.

“While I said Mugabe has to be the drastic thing to happen for better economic and political forecast to happen in 2017, in opposition politics the burying of egos and their coalescing against Zanu PF is the drastic thing that is required,” he said.

Comments (6)

With all these dire predictions of what the future holds for him, the Zimbo continues to believe in divine intervention. Wake up guys, ZANU is not going away quietly.

Dunlop Munjanja - 1 January 2017

These are analysis based on political wishfull thinking.Very far from the trueth.Its as clear as water that Zimbos have been taking care of themselves ,without state assistance,since 2000.Zimbos are now masters in survival tactics.Government can just worry about their pay and functionality ,as citizens dont need them to live.Actually its the rurals that benefit frm government few schims ,like farming inputs .What is very evident is that this year is va Mugabe s last year in gorvenment.He is old.It is now very disgusting to see him trembling ,and chewing invisible bubble gums ,in public.The wheelburrow wishfull thinking is not practical.No foreign country will invite him for anything.It will be madness for any head of state of any country inviting vaMugabe for talks.locally there will be les poilitical rallies for him, he cant talk straight now.He will soon need a translator of shona into english for him to understand goings on.So 2017 will be a dramatic year on politics but not economy.But as soon as all powers are handed over to Vp, then he can sign the bilateral agreement wth China worth $5billion, he can initiate re entry I to commonwealth and sign $3billion loan, Britain,$1.5b,Germany $2b.All these agreements are on paper waiting for vp to sign as these countries refuse vaMugabe s signature bcoz of age and his tendencies of cancelling agreements to suit politics.So its really a dramatic year 2017.Failure to retire vaMugabe this year ,will mean maiMugabe is president in the hiding,making most decisions,which no foreign government likes.It will dry up most relations on foreign policy.2018 will then be both dramatic and disasterouse for zanu.How will g40 purge a liberation icon and overpowering vp ngwena.And his whole backers that includes the military?War.

viola gwena - 2 January 2017

We need Vp to initiate these strutegies to revive the economy.He has worked very hard on these super agreements wth the east n west.Re engagements wth the world.We are now fully accepted by IMF and World bank, must waiting now for a full vp to be president ,so he can sign the papers.This we need for our farming,industrialisation,mining and social living .All can see the diplomats nolonger interested in va Tsvangirai .He was given support during his time.The same wth mai Mujuru.She was vp and did nothing during her tenior,abolutely zero she did.Infact when she was easily pushed out by maiMugabe, showed how small she is.She cannever be head of state .That ls the reasn all are putting faith in vp.He has proved not a pushover.Not a coward.When vaMugabe said No to IMF re engagement vp said yes and sent Chinamasa to talk to them.Thats balls.Mujuru wuld never dream to oppose the president.Political vultures n prostitutes were set on him at rallies ,to force him to resign but he stood his ground and dared all .He is a master of this type of politics.But to show his softer side he fully respects his senior va Mugabe.He checks on his health .He protects him from known vultures surrounding him.He laughs wth sellouts ,he is so forgiving,he could actually embrace mahoka n chimene calling them his mad sisters.He is such a gentleman.He is NOT ruthless as pple say.His silence is usually viewd as scheming things but the truth is ,he talks less ,has always been that since he escaped the hangman s knott.He comes from far wth this Zanu.He worked under Tongogara,Nkomo,Mangena,Chitepo ,Mugabe .He has seen it all.He is the best man to change our economy n politics inside 5 yrs n retire.A lawyer .Let use this man n prosper,get our country back on track.

viola gwena - 2 January 2017

i could not agree with yu more tete,we are tired of these doomsday analyst who have been predicting chaos since day one,all indications are the economy will turn around,command agriculture is doing wonders on the ground,@viola gwena,i can also embrace your candidate ngwena on condition he steps in on a transitional basis

truth - 2 January 2017

Thats very true ,Truth my little brother.Ngwena is in his 70s .So one term maybe just enuf .Remember he has been in government since 1980.He also is getting tired.But his experience is so huge we need to use him get our economy back on track.Moreso now when dollar is not giving value to international investors.Oil production is now cut by Opec.So value of money has to go where theris growth,Africa.Zimbabwe we offer cheap commodities ,mining.As the US China relations very unstable on commodities pricing ,Africa becomes the destination for capital flows.We just need to tune up on politics and believe in the legal system.We have so much potential that ,in tourism ,which China is considering for their yuths,is worth more than $4b per annum.Just from China s yung investors .But we have to make sure our own yuths benefit .Us and Germany need uranium n platnum,both in abundance here.So its just for ngwena to sign them and we all get busy n forget about fighting .Welcome to the positive side ,Truth ,my brother.Yu have scored big.

viola gwena - 2 January 2017

Men need jobs .The economy must turn around for jobs.Most of these presidential hopefools lack idealism.They dont know what it means to be president of a modern Africa that has a demanding electorate.They have a very poor record attempts and economic engagements,to say the least.Ngwena is advocating for capitalization on business experience to involve 80p.c yuths and SMEs.He wants banks to involve SMEs and yuths in corperate issues.Our stock exchange is very timid on this ,even tho Tafadzwa Chinhamo of Securities does try bt not far enuf,to involve SMES on capital projects n experiences.S.Nyoni is far too old for this.Look at China .Its now policy to help their yuths invest in African tourism ,for cultural purposes and MONEY.

viola gwena - 2 January 2017

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