By Ken Mufuka
While I wish Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to succeed, the path he has followed is doomed to fail. I will detail the reasons why below.
The situation in which he has placed Zimbabwe’s finances is not new. Many Third World countries have gone through that process until they realised that they had been played for fools.
Ncube places too much trust in imperialists.
Briefly, between 1971 and 1976 Jamaica was experiencing severe unemployment and budget deficits at the same time. A brilliant economist from the London School of Economics, Michael Manley, assumed the office of prime minister.
The solution, from his point of view, was to soak the four giant American bauxite companies, Alcoa, Alcan, Monsanto and Kaiser, with new taxes. At the same time, he asked for World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for support.
Those two bodies advised him to depreciate the Jamaican dollar. At that time, J$1 was equivalent to US$2.
The depreciation, by 50%, made Jamaican goods cheaper. US goods, automobiles, electrical gadgets and food retained their previous prices.
These surrogate imperialists also insisted that Jamaica pay its debt to their clients, even while Jamaican schools and institutions were deprived of funding. So the windfall J$4 250 million Manley had extracted in taxes from international companies was halved in one swoop.
Having started this perilous journey of floating the Jamaican currency, there was no end in sight. Today the US$ is valued at J$153. A professor’s salary of J$450 000 is worth US$2991,17.
Thus started the Jamaican exodus to the US and Canada, estimated at five million over the last 30 years.
Meanwhile, through thick and thin the World Bank insisted that their friends be paid. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere addressed the students at the University of the West Indies. .
“We found ourselves running in order to stand still.” Nyerere said. “But the international debtors were collecting their money as usual. We asked. Do you want us to starve our children so that we pay you? The answer [was], yes.”
Zimbabwe’s Indian dance
Once Ncube depreciated the Zimbabwe dollar by a factor of 10, there will be no end to the Indian dance we must go through. An Indian dance, like Nyerere’s dance, starts and ends at the same place. No progress is achieved.
I am writing on the 12th of November. I have before me a press statement by the Zimbabwe Grain Millers Association. Previously, the millers had bought wheat from the Grain Marketing Board for $3 548 per tonne. Today the price is $55 900 per tonne.
Let that sentence sink for a while.
The Indian dance has begun and there is no end in sight. The new price is based on the inter-market exchange value of $15,75 per U$1.
The doctors’ strike has entered its 70th day with no end in sight. It is very simple, my dear Dr Watson.
Brother Ncube is worried too much about paying back international debtors. Those blood suckers will not rest until our children starve. That should not be a priority.
As long as the Zimbabwe dollar is on a yo-yo versus the US dollar, doctors cannot be satisfied. A 100% salary increment merely doubles salaries. The inter-market exchange rate has gone beyond that. At the time of writing, it has moved to Z$20 per U$1.
Ncube is worried about paying off the international financiers.
Doctors and hospitals in Zimbabwe are not a priority. It is a shame.
World is a cruel place
Of the 1 600 doctors in Zimbabwe, I wonder if there is going to be a single doctor under the age of 30 who will refuse such a passage to Eldorado by going overseas.
My information is that Canada may soon extend its greetings to Zimbabwean doctors and nurses.
What then is to be done?
Forget about the international banks. Our emphasis should be on internal self-sufficiency. To begin with, with good leadership, our minds we can be reoriented.
Think of the Japanese or Chinese. If we are building a road, why in God’s earth do we need Chinese and Japanese when we have so many engineers? What does it matter if the road takes 10 years to build? Great Zimbabwe was built by trial and error builders.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame said that what Africa needs is a mind reorientation. Sometimes we ask for things, which we already have. I had difficulties holding my tears at Tokwe Mukosi village. The villagers are suffering from a drought. The Tokwe Mukosi weir is 500 yards from their village on its way 160km away to Chiredzi cane fields.
They are waiting for somebody from Europe to build a small diversion of the weir to irrigate their crops.
Cry Africa, Cry.
Ncube talks about a surplus. Contrary to his claims, he has not yet achieved fiscal discipline if a minister has seven cars at his disposal. In any case, if the surplus money is in Zimbabwe dollars, it is losing value even as we go to press.
But I am surprised to hear that Ncube can boast of monetary surplus when doctors have not been paid and hospitals are in shambles. Is it possible for a father to boast that his granary is full when his children spindly legs reveal the presence of kwashiorkor?
I rest my case.
The article first appeared in the Standard of 11/17/2019.
Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwe patriot, who writes from the US. He has written 10 books, the latest is: Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed available in Zimbabwe at INNOV Bookshops and in the world at kenmufukabooks.com