Monday, 15 June 2020


ORDINARY Zimbabweans’ loss of hope has become palpable as the prices of basic goods and services continue to skyrocket, with no imminent solutions in sight to address the country’s worsening economic crisis.

This comes as consumers who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said while they were worried about the lethal coronavirus, they feared hunger and starvation more — pleading with the government to pay more attention to Zimbabwe’s economic woes than was currently the case.

It also comes as analysts have once again implored President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government to re-introduce the stability-inducing multi-currency system — like what happened a decade ago after Zimbabwe had endured similarly debilitating economic problems.

Some of the consumers who spoke to the Daily News yesterday dismissed today’s Presidential National Day of Prayer on Covid-19 as “a waste of time” as it did not include “the more urgent need” to find solutions for the country’s deepening economic challenges.

“The government is busy organising prayers yet the prices of basic commodities are increasing daily. Organising a prayer without dealing with the root cause of our country’s problems will not solve anything.

“We can fast and pray, but will still be confronted by the same harsh reality,” Harare resident, Bernadette Mazaiwana, said.

Another consumer, Chamunorwa Marecha, also said it was “futile to pray about one challenge without paying attention to other key issues such as the country’s political divisions.

“Prayer only works when you admit your sins and repent from them. President Mnangagwa and his government need to admit that they have failed.

“They must invite MDC Alliance leader (Nelson) Chamisa and others to the round table … to find ways of solving the country’s worsening problems,” he told the Daily News.

The consumers spoke as most shops have once again increased their prices of basic commodities, including for bread, maize-meal, cooking oil, sugar, eggs and milk.

A survey by the Daily News crews yesterday revealed that apart from the price hikes, items such as subsidised roller meal and sugar were still in very short supply.

Some shops were only allowing consumers to buy sugar if they spent a certain amount of money at the tills.

Meanwhile, a loaf of bread, which was retailing at $34 a mere three weeks ago, is now selling for anything up to $68, depending on the shop.

Meanwhile, economists said yesterday that the government now had no option left to stabilise the economy other than to “revert to the multi-currency system” — which was first introduced in 2009 after the Zimbabwe dollar was decimated by hyper-inflation.

“If you look at the last time when we had this same problem in 2009, the solution which worked was the stabilisation of the exchange rate through the introduction of the multi-currency regime.

“The government had tried all things then, including the printing of money and price controls, but all these strategies failed. The problem that we have right now, apart from issues with the exchange rate, is that we have a government with no economic strategy whatsoever.

“It is completely clueless on how to revive the economy,” respected economist Tony Hawkins told the Daily News. The government keeps talking about implementing political and economic reforms, but nothing is being done to implement the reforms.

“What we need is a radical solution, and that is to fully dollarise the economy and start planning the way forward from there.

“When we talk about stabilisation, it is economic in as much as it is political.
“This can be very difficult for any country, especially Zimbabwe where politicians are led by their own party or selfish interests instead of those of the people they lead,” Hawkins said further.

“If you look at the latest figures, Zimbabwe is being ranked as the second worst performing economy in Africa and number 10 in the world.

“So, this is a huge ask on the Government of Zimbabwe to turn around such an economy because we don’t have anyone in the government who is willing to stand up and admit failure and make way for others with innovative ideas to solve the country’s economic problems,” he added.

Veteran economist John Robertson echoed the same sentiments saying authorities were running out of time to end the country’s worsening economic crisis.

“Stabilising the exchange rate is key to stabilising the prices. The reason why prices of basic commodities continue increasing is because there is no balance between the foreign currency we need for imports and the foreign currency we are generating as a nation.

“We have become net importers of everything and that is not what it is supposed to be like.
“We should be able to produce for ourselves and export to other countries to generate foreign currency reserves,” Robertson told the Daily News.

“If we continue importing more than we are exporting, then there won’t be a balance between the supply and demand of foreign currency, and the prices of basic commodities will continue increasing.

“The government keeps on saying that we are implementing economic reforms, but this is just being said for political reasons.

“No ground work is actually being done. This country desperately needs sound economic reforms which can attract investment and stimulate production, which will see our industries being reopened again,” Robertson further told the Daily News.

“So, if the government doesn’t know how to improve policies, then what we need is a new government capable of doing what needs to be done to revive this economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, has warned that the skyrocketing prices were a recipe for disaster for the country.

“When people’s livelihoods are affected at individual and community level, and they can’t make ends meet, that is a recipe for disaster for the government because people cannot be over-stretched for long.

“However, this is avoidable and the only way to avoid an implosion is by finding a political solution to the country’s problems.

“This is not about trial and error, it’s about doing something that was tried and tested in the past and it worked,” Masunungure told the Daily News.

“I am talking about the government of national unity (GNU) which was created in 2009 when our economy had hit rock bottom. It worked as a solution to our problems back then and it can still work even today,” he added.

“That is why the majority of Zimbabweans we have spoken to in our research have indicated that they want to go back to that era.

“They are nostalgic because they know that is the only solution that we can adopt to solve inflation and the exchange rate that is resulting in price increases,” Masunungure also said.
The country’s worsening economic rot has triggered restlessness among ordinary Zimbabweans.

Despite being feted like a king when he first replaced the late former president Robert Mugabe, via a popular military coup in November 2017 — Mnangagwa and his government have found re-building the broken economy a tough ask.

Only recently the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) painted a gloomy picture of the future as a result of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Daily News


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