Thursday, December 24, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: No Prosperity Without Unity; Christmas Cheer is Back

No prosperity without unity: President

Herald Reporter

PRESIDENT Mugabe has called for unity in the inclusive Government for its macro-economic policy designed to turn around the country’s economic fortunes to realise desired results.

This follows the launch of an economic blueprint, the Three-Year Macro-Economic Policy and Budget Framework for 2010-2012, on Wednesday, also known as the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) II.

In a preface to the 413-page economic policy and budget framework, the President underscored the need to preserve unity in the inclusive Government for the benefit of the nation.

"For this policy framework to succeed, it is of paramount importance that the inclusive Government is preserved and sustained, in the interest of our people whom we serve.

"For it is only through unity of purpose that we can defend the gains of our independence and chart our destiny as an independent and sovereign state," he said.

President Mugabe said the formation of the inclusive Government in February this year and the launch of STERP as its economic blueprint in March, a number of achievements were made in the economic domain, particularly in achieving some macro-economic stability.

"However, notwithstanding these developments, our economy for the past decade has withstood a number of socio-politico-economic challenges that have not been fully resolved under STERP.

"These challenges are not insurmountable. Hence, the need for great resolve and commitment on the part of Government and the country at large to unite in the face of these challenges," he said.

The Government’s commitment to reform, President Mugabe said, had managed to stabilise the macro-economic environment.

"However, the challenge in going forward is to anchor sustained growth and development on the macro-economic stability that has been achieved to date.

"This will be done through increased production in the agriculture, mining, manufacturing and other key sectors of the economy," he said.

President Mugabe said STERP II would build on the macro-economic stability attained under STERP to achieve a robust economy necessary for the socio-economic transformation of the people over the next three years to 2012.

In his foreword, Finance Minister Tendai Biti also called for political will at all levels of Government and a commitment by stakeholders to implement agreed policies and public ownership and effective participation in the implementation of the framework agenda.

"It is my strong conviction that once these ingredients are in place, we will be able to turn around this economy and indeed rebuild and reposition Zimbabwe to its rightful place within the community of nations," Minister Biti said.

Among the objectives of the Macro-Economic Policy and Budget Framework are: sustaining macro-economic stabilisation and consolidating STERP; support for rapid growth and employment creation and ensuring food security.

It also seeks to restore basic services, encouraging public

and private sector investment, promoting regional integration, restoring basic freedoms and restoring international relations.

A review of STERP, since its launch nine months ago, indicates mixed results with progress in some areas, while there are some outstanding issues and challenges.

Achievements in the past nine months include reduction of inflation to negative levels, removal of price distortions, improved management of public resources, recovery of basic public service provisions, normalisation of financial services, and re-engagement and confidence building with the international community.

Government managed to resuscitate business activities and a subsequent improved supply response.

Some international organisations, among them the International Monetary Fund, have given a nod to a number of sound fundamental economic policies put in place by the inclusive Government.

The policy was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe on Wednesday.

Christmas cheer is back

By Lloyd Gumbo and Vallery Chingono
Zimbabwe Herald

MOST families appear ready for a first-class Christmas feast today, with supermarkets still crowded yesterday, but are going easy on presents and concentrating on practical items like school uniforms and work clothes.

As Zimbabwe climbs out of the economic doldrums, most said they wanted a slap-up Christmas, and reckoned they could afford it, their first for several years.

But most also wanted to get through January and ensure their children went to school. Shops selling luxury items were starting to discount prices yesterday, rather than wait for the January sales.

Even the banks co-operated. Bank queues were negligible yesterday and those wishing to withdraw money could do so very quickly.

The serious spike in cash demand last week, that triggered long queues and limits on withdrawals, is now over, at least until the January pay week.

The only sour note came from bus companies and thieves.

Bus owners were not only keeping the profiteering fares they introduced a week ago, but were unable to meet demand on many routes.

The Mbare Musika long-distance bus terminus was chaotic.

Bus operators increased fares taking advantage of the festive season which saw many people avoiding "expensive" buses for private vehicles thereby exposing themselves to robbers who take advantage of the transport blues and masquerade as Good Samaritans.

Passengers who intended to travel to areas like Chinhoyi, Karoi, Centenary, Guruve and Kariba were still stranded at the terminus around 11am, since there were no buses.

"We arrived here around 5am, but since we arrived only one bus has come to the rank and it’s now uncertain if the buses are coming anymore because we have been waiting for hours and there is no communication from the bus operators," said a man travelling to Guruve.

At the bus stop along the Harare-Masvi-ngo Road pupularly known as KuMbudzi, travellers were waving down haulage trucks, lorries and pick-up trucks because their fares were "reasonably low".

"I spent four hours at Mbare (terminus) but there were no buses and besides they were charging very high fares, so I decided to come here and it looks like I won’t be here for long," said Mr Alois Mbamba who was travelling to Masvingo.

Yesterday, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe embarked on an awareness campaign at Mbare bus terminus to make drivers and passengers value safety during this festive season.

Acting regional traffic safety officer for the northern region Mr Jonah Mhangami said the campaign was meant to equip drivers with knowledge on how to avoid accidents.

At Colcom and Irvine’s there were long queues as people scrambled to buy chicken, pork products, beef and eggs.

People who spoke to The Herald said this year’s Christmas was different from those in recent years because this time shops were full and people had more disposable income.

"Christmas this year is totally different from the recent ones because there is price stability, shops are full and people have some disposable income. I just want to go and see my parents," said Mr Blessing Mandikonza who was travelling to Nyanga.

In the city, people were running around buying groceries, clothes, toys and other goodies but they bemoaned the delay by banks in dispensing cash.

"We are buying groceries this late because we could not access cash from the banks on time. However, we can at least afford a ‘Christmas basket’ and I am just anxious to go to my rural home and see my relatives after a long time," Mrs Pretty Njoba said.

School wear shops also enjoyed brisk business with parents buying school uniforms for their children saying they did not want to be affected by the "January disease"

"We are buying uniforms because we are afraid if we go for the holidays without buying uniforms and books for our children we won’t be able to do so in January.

"However, I have decided to spoil my family this holiday as I will be taking them to Victoria Falls because we can now afford to do that," said Mr Denford Chaora.

Filling stations in the city expressed confidence that they would be able to meet the fuel demand as they had enough reserves.

They said fuel prices were most likely to remain at an average of US$1,18 and US$0,98 per litre for petrol and diesel respectively.

As people were busy shopping, pickpockets have also taken advantage of the situation especially in the downtown area.

On Tuesday, deputy police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said they had deployed police countrywide to thwart criminal activities.

He said police were gathering intelligence through the police internal security intelligence and surveillance.

Chief Supt Mandipaka also urged people to secure their homes when travelling.

Nestlé saga: Deal reached

Herald Reporter

Nestlé Zimbabwe has been asked to reopen its factory after assurances were given by the Government over the safety of staff and agreement was reached over how milk from Gushungo Dairies will be processed.

In a statement yesterday, Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube said he had held consultations with Nestlé Zimbabwe, Gushungo Dairies and other "key stakeholders in the dairy sector".

"As a result of those consultations, the parties have collectively reached an understanding to work together in ensuring that milk produced at Gushungo Dairies is absorbed by the local dairy processors.

"For its part, Government has given its assurance on the safety of staff and management at both Nestlé Zimbabwe and Gushungo Dairies," said the statement.

While no details of the "understanding" were made public, it appears that milk from Gushungo, which is owned by the First Family, will go into the general pool of milk processed by Dairibord and others and that Nestlé will buy its requirements from that pool.

Minister Ncube said he had been asked to intervene in the dispute by both President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after Nestlé’s Zurich head office said it was temporarily closing its Zimbabwe factory after two managers were questioned by police and the factory was forced to buy a tanker of milk from a "non-contracted" source.

On Wednesday during a Press conference by the three principals to the Global Political Agreement to review the operations of the inclusive Government since its formation early this year, PM Tsvangirai said: "Shutting down the plant is an overreaction that is totally unnecessary," he said.

Nestlé head office in Zurich had issued a statement saying that it was temporarily closing its Zimbabwe factory "since . . . normal operations and the safety of employees are no longer guaranteed".

The company said, in its statement through AFP, that on Saturday the factory was visited by Zimbabwean "officials" and police, and forced to accept a tanker of non-contracted milk. Two managers were questioned by police but were released without charge after questioning the same day.

The company said its Zimbabwe subsidiary stopped buying milk from non-contracted farmers in October when normal supplies resumed from Daribord.

It had started buying direct in February this year as a temporary measure to ensure food supplies when Dairibord could no longer pay farmers but had then returned to its normal system.

However, Nestlé had been under pressure from Western activists to stop buying milk from Gushungo Dairy Estates, a business owned by the First Family and which was supplying up to 15 percent of the factory’s milk, and from at least seven other new farmers.

The reason of switching back to Dairibord was not accepted by Zimbabwean pressure groups, who saw the move as an imposition of sanctions on the eight new farmers.

Govt makes strides in health provision

Herald Reporter

THE year comes to an end on a positive note after the health delivery system has begun showing signs of recovery.

Beginning the year at its lowest ebb that was punctuated by the menacing cholera epidemic, shortage of drugs and absenteeism by health professionals who could not afford to commute to and from work, the situation has started normalising.

Various programmes that have been instituted by inclusive Government have started to realise positive gains that need to be sustained in the following year.

The Health Ministry is one of the ministries that got a new leadership comprising Minister Henry Madzorera, Deputy Minister Douglas Mombeshora and Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji but the transition did not affect operations in the sector.

The inclusive Government’s 100-day plan saw the introduction of the targeted approaches aimed at refurbishing all health institutions in the country.

Under the programme health institutions that had either closed or working far below capacity where targeted for revival.

The programme saw central hospitals ,such as the Harare Central Hospital, reopening their doors to the public.

Although the hospital is still to regain its status as one of the leading referral centres it has shown that, given adequate funds, it can retain its lost glory.

Harare Hospital has managed to reopen the children’s hospital and maternity section that had been closed due to shortage of essential drugs and accessories.

The hospital has also seen the refurbishment of the laundry equipment that had been defunct for the past three years.

The refurbishment exercises also helped in improving operations at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Mutare Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospital.

Owing to the positive improvements at the targeted institutions, Government has vowed to continue with the approach for the 2010 financial year. Health financing for the year 2009 was on the positive side as Government, for the first time honoured, its global obligation to allocate 15 percent of the national budget towards the health sector.

Government did not only honour the obligation but surpassed it by 0,7 percent —– a development hailed by health professionals.

This commitment by the Government is being carried forward into 2010 as evidenced by the 12,7 percent allocation towards the ministry.

Although the allocation is slightly below the United Nations 15 percent target, it is, however, double compared to the US$121 million that the ministry received in 2009.

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