National dialogue is welcome

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Zimbabwe has been battered left, right and centre on the economic front for the past two decades, and the people are yearning for a lasting solution to the cancer which has left the country in a sovereign debt estimated at US$20 billion.

According to the Parliament Budget Office (PBO), the country’s debt grew by 8.69% stoked by continuous public borrowings to finance persistent budget deficits through Treasury Bills (TBs) and central bank overdrafts.

By June last year, the overdraft at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had reached $961,29m, while government securities, comprising TBs and bonds, amounted to $2,53bn.

At the end of the same period, the budget deficit had ballooned to $1,34bn, 406% above the $266m deficit target and way above the statutory limit. Add this to the persistent fuel shortages, escalating prices of basic commodities, and zero industrial growth, chances are that the country’s economy will not get out of intensive care anytime soon.

This is why we think the initiative by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to bring opposition political parties, civil society and churches to a national dialogue is welcome and we strongly believe that it is key to unlocking the economic potential of this country and arrest the decaying situation.

President Mnangagwa is expected to meet opposition parties’ leaders at the new Munhumutapa Second Floor Boardroom today, although some have insinuated that they will not attend, including the leader of the largest opposition party, MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa.

The parties may choose not to attend for various reasons, but that is beside the point. Our main focus is the call by President Mnangagwa for national dialogue that we believe will set the right tone for economic recovery. “I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first,” said President Mnangagwa in an earlier Twitter post.

As Business Times, we urge President Mnangagwa to be deeply sincere in his call and the proverbial motto “United we stand, divided we fall” must be the fulcrum of this enterprise. It is not just President Mnangagwa who should shoulder this responsibility, but all parties and their leaders must be involved, especially Chamisa because he commands considerable support in the urban areas.

Zimbabweans have suffered as a result of political bickering which, unfortunately, have been punctuated by the absence of national discourse and coherence. Unlike other nations, there seems to be no national convergence on crucial issues such as culture, politics and demeanour. There might be a frightening election season in America between the Democrats and Republicans, but when the madness is over they revert to Americanness. They speak with one voice as a country.

Zimbabwe’s weakening economy is squarely blamed on the politicians who usually showboat at the expense of the suffering masses. Thus, President Mnangagwa must be earnest in the noble effort he has initiated following the violent protests that have not only destroyed infrastructure, but have eroded the last hope of confidence investors had in the new administration.

In a paper presentation titled “The Impact of Political Determinants on Economic Growth”, Madalina Radu argues that politics directly affects the performance of the economy, the same scenario that is obtaining in Zimbabwe.

“It is impossible to analyse a country’s economy by taking into account only the market factors,” Radu says. “Every economic system must be incorporated and harmonised with the continuing development of a country, a trend that reflects technological changes and innovations and, also, political conflicts that results in various interests and institutions being represented and modified.