Thursday, July 12, 2007

Zimbabwe News: We Will Not Collapse!

Zimbabwe will not collapse!

Courtesy of the Herald

One of the weekend South African newspapers had a screaming headline "Zimbabwe collapses" and other international news wires and agencies were also talking about the Zimbabwe dollar being pegged to the rand and a host of other negative stories pertaining to the developments in this country, particularly in the last week or two where we have witnessed price slashes in one form or another.

What particularly caught my attention was that screaming headline about Zimbabwe’s collapse.

Was there an omission of a word or two in that headline by the sub-editor of that newspaper? Could it be they meant to say this country could collapse or was on the verge of collapsing or some such because to me that headline meant there was no Zimbabwe to talk about anymore.

It’s a headline that sounded so final, painting a picture that the situation here was now irretrievable.

That is where I choose to differ completely with the views (or wishes) of those who think Zimbabwe has already collapsed. Of course, no amount of make-up or any form of camouflage can hide the challenges that this country is facing.

There are there for all to see. Inflation is galloping, foreign currency is scarce, some goods have vanished from the shops and there is growing mistrust between Government and business — among other factors.

And they seem to be compounding by the day, but to say that there is no hope any more is to stretch it a bit too far. I am one patriot who takes great exception when my country is being rubbished left right and centre, particularly when the state of affairs is exaggerated, creating a completely different picture in the end.

Indeed, we are going through a very rough patch but there is hope that the situation will come right sooner rather than later.

Same old song from this lady — some maybe saying — but the words will hold true one of these fine days.

Over the past two weeks I have attended at least four seminars from where I have emerged with a feeling that we are almost there.

The latest one was the Harare Chamber of Commerce and Business Network International (BNI) held in the capital yesterday under the theme "We will survive together".

I found the theme highly developmental. The discussions were not about fingerpointing but that the current state of the economy was a result of collective actions by all of us and therein lies the solution — collective effort.

It is not about the Government blaming business and business in turn blaming labour or the other way round. Economists, industrialists and Government officials present at the meeting were all in agreement that the ongoing pricing war was not healthy for anyone and that solutions need to be found now.

The HCC president Ozwel Binha summed it very well in his opening remarks: "It’s critical for all of us to realise that we are Zimbabweans first and businessmen second." Implying that it was not about one social partner seeking to fix the other but that at the end of the day national welfare was at stake and the earlier everybody realised this the better.

The breakfast meeting was fruitful and I came out feeling optimistic that we were now headed in the right direction. If only the discussions by the close to 100 participants would cascade to the rest of the populace.

On Tuesday I also had the privilege to attend a meeting between Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono and chiefs, during which the chiefs made a commitment to turn around the agricultural sector and turn Zimbabwe into the breadbasket that it is supposed to be.

They drew their inspiration and motivation from the farm mechanisation programme being spearheaded by the central bank. The distribution of tractors and other implements, the availability of funds under the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility and other measures to increase production in the sector would surely see a massive transformation in agriculture, they pledged.

Last week I also attended a National Cattle Herd Rebuilding workshop in Bulawayo organised by RBZ’s Fiscorp and the Cold Storage Company.

Challenges in the livestock sector were discussed at length but at the end of it all the conclusion was that Zimbabwe had the requisite expertise and resources to increase the national herd in terms of numbers and quality.

The dairy sector symposium was another progressive meeting held in Harare to find solutions that would see an increase in milk production. Numbers in this sector have gone down drastically in the last five years but discussions and the commitment to implement could mark the turning point in that sector.

Of course, as a journalist I have attended hundreds of meetings, workshops, seminars, symposiums, conferences, etc, but these ones were different in terms of deliverables.

They were not just talk shops but it was evident that people really meant business this time around.

As proposed at yesterday’s breakfast meeting, there is need for more dialogue and team effort to pluck the economy out of the current challenges. Of course, Zimbabwe will not collapse but there is urgent need to mend things and ensure that its gets back on a sound footing.

The economic wheels have not exactly come off but they need re-oiling to start functioning well again. I must apologise in advance to the doomsayers that they will not see total collapse of this country but instead they will be invited to witness a re-birth of a country that is strategic to the welfare, not just of its people but of the region and the world at large.

In God I trust!


Price controls hailed

By Victoria Ruzvidzo and Martin Kadzere
Zimbabwe Herald

THE blanket price controls on goods and services announced by the Government three weeks ago and the clampdown on errant businesses was a necessary move that averted a massive economic catastrophe, economists said yesterday.

Had the Government not intervened at that juncture, the economy would have succumbed to the pressures of the sharp price hikes that had become the order of the day.

Economists attending a breakfast seminar hosted by the Harare Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Business Network International to review the impact of price cuts on the future of businesses said the unprecedented price hikes defied economic fundamentals and were "very harmful" to the economy.

The forward-looking behaviour that had been adopted by firms had become so rampant as prices were pegged using the parallel market rate of the US$, Botswana pula or South African rand and anticipated inflation figures which were much higher than the official data.

"If that had continued at that rate (the price increases), the economy could have certainly collapsed," said Mr Brains Muchemwa, an investment economist with Genesis Investment Bank.

To make matters worse, the forward-looking pricing formulae encouraged inefficiencies that concentrated on price increases as opposed to improved production, he added.

"Efficiency ceases to be a factor when businesses are forward-looking," he said.

Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group head of the treasury department Mr Andy Hodges concurred.

"It had become so rampant and something really had to be done and it was done."

However, the economists and industrialists concurred that the strategy by Government would stabilise prices in the short term but there was need to urgently come up with a more permanent solution to the pricing war.

Many agreed the businesses had brought the current clampdown upon themselves as they resisted Government’s pleas to stabilise prices.

Principal director (finance and budgets) in the Ministry of Finance Mrs Judith Kateera described the recent wave of price increases as "madness" — a situation that prompted Government to take action.

"I can assure you that this is not a permanent solution, it is only temporary. Government itself does not want price controls but if the situation requires it to protect the vulnerable public it will do so," she said.

Three weeks ago, the Government directed retailers and manufactures to cut prices of all goods and services by 50 percent.

Prior to that, prices of most goods and services had gone up by over 300 percent in a very short space of time making them unaffordable to the majority.

Basic commodities such as laundry soap, salt and meat had been priced beyond the reach of the average worker, with some salaries insufficient to purchase a few basic foodstuffs.

It was, therefore, critical that business sought audience with the Government to come up with realistic pricing formulas.

Mr Hodges said the absence of dialogue and evident mistrust between the social partners was the source of most of the challenges bedevilling the economy.

"Government had to take certain measures in response to the price hikes but there is now need for dialogue."

He added that the social partners had reneged on their commitments under the three protocols signed last month.

Government had not met its end of the bargain in terms of foreign currency mobilisation while businesses had not stabilised prices, contrary to their commitment to do so, he said.

"In fact, prices started going up soon after the signing of the protocols," said Mr Hodges.

The mistrust between the parties was retrogressive.

"Sometimes you must just take a leap of faith and believe in that trust," he urged the partners.

Measures that could turn things around included the provision of enough foreign currency to manufacturers to keep them producing and redirecting capital expenditure to productive activities thus avoiding excessive liquidity on the market.

Presently the price slashes had also caused shortages, a situation that could only be addressed through concerted efforts by all the partners.

Bulk buying had become rampant, with most of the goods finding their way to the parallel market.

This had the effect of fuelling inflation and other attendant problems.

Mr Hodges said even if manufacturers were to operate at 100 percent capacity, they could not produce enough goods to restock all retail shops in the country as new stocks were being wiped out in minutes as a result of hoarding.

Most shops in Harare have run out of basic goods such as meat, salt, bread and beef as shoppers rushed to stock up as the price freeze takes effect.

With most shops were virtually emptied of basic goods, the attention of bargain-hunters also turned to clothing and footwear shops, which have also been ordered to cut their prices.

Dell must change behaviour fast

EDITOR — The Government’s decision to order price cuts for all commodities was timely intervention that should tame that price jungle that was overwhelming consumers.

One really wonders which pricing models the manufacturers and retailers were using?

I doubt that they were using any model since we began reading wild predictions that inflation would reach 1,5 million percent by December.

The source: Blundering outgoing US ambassador, Christopher Dell.

That the man had the temerity to compare Zimbabwe to Kyrgystan, Kosovo and Yugoslavia, was an unforgivable insult to all Zimbabweans.

Dell is obviously dreaming if he thinks his so-called Fishmongers Group will effect his long-desired but elusive illegal regime change.

I have some advice for him — he must change his behaviour fast because the no-nonsense Talibans will not put up with it in Kabul. Dell’s ranting clearly showed that the price increases were politically motivated, which is why the Ministerial Taskforce on Price Monitoring and Stabilisation should mercilessly deal with all saboteurs.

It appears some wolves in the manufacturing and retail sectors were sold on the Fishmongers project.

To Minister Obert Mpofu, I say maintain the pressure on saboteurs, recruit more people for price control teams and send them all over the country.

No doubt, some saboteurs will hide products in warehouses, but do not leave any stone unturned.

We can’t just sit back and watch stinking fishmongers trying to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle.

To the likes of Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, who claims he is fighting for ordinary Zimbabweans, I say, please fight for the Aborigines first if you really have a heart.

Chidzuwi Farmers’ Inputs Association,
Karoi North

No comments: