By Christopher Mahove
More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and the government requires about $2.7 billion to implement its Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy in the next two years, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Monday.
Speaking at the launch of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in Harare, Chinamasa said this was despite the fact that poverty reduction had always remained government’s top priority.
“Poverty eradication strategies and interventions have always been embedded in all the economic reform programmes government has been implementing since the attainment of independence in 1980,” Chinamasa said.
“While over the years government has succeeded in halving the population in extreme poverty from 44 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 2012, however, poverty levels as measured by the Total Consumption Poverty Line has remained high at over 70 percent.”
Chinamasa said the effects of the country’s economic crisis were mostly felt in the social sectors, where thousands were losing their jobs, children were dropping out of school and hospitals and clinics were running without adequate drugs.
“This I-PSRP, therefore, focuses on specific short term measures but with long term impact on the livelihoods of the population, in particular vulnerable segments of our society,” he said.
Chinamasa said of the required $2.7 billion, $800 million had already been raised, leaving a funding deficit of $1.9 billion. He said the bulk of the money would go towards funding agricultural production to ensure household food security.
“Proposed interventions are centred on guaranteeing food security through special maize production, enhancing productivity, expanding irrigation rehabilitation and development in view of the risks associated with climate change, providing access to sustainable and affordable capital, access to markets for agriculture commodities and revival of agricultural parastatals,” he said.
Chinamasa said strategies would also prioritise interventions in the productive sectors of manufacturing, mining, energy, information communication technology, and tourism, small to medium enterprises, inclusive banking, indigenisation and economic empowerment as well as housing among others.
The private sector, he said, should also play a big role in reducing poverty through the creation of employment.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been on its knees ever since the country embarked on a controversial land reform exercise which saw white commercial farmers brutally driven out of their farms to make way for thousands of land hungry blacks.
Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, with others going abroad were they are doing menial jobs after industry collapsed, rendering millions jobless and hungry.
Things got worse during the 2007 and 2008, only to be rescued by The Government of National Unity (GNU) which stabilised the economy until 2013, when Zanu PF controversially won general elections which the opposition parties disputed. The majority of the people, mostly in rural areas, are living on less than a dollar a day. African News Agency