This review used to be a collection of statistics neatly divided into topics such as finance, cost of living, agriculture, industry and trade. Statistics are so scarce that this has become difficult. The Central Statistical Office has begun publishing cost of living figures again, pitiably little information compared to what they produced ten years ago, and at the exorbitant price of $2 per page. ZimTrade last updated their database in February 2007, the Reserve Bank stopped publishing their monthly review of the economy in February 2008 and don’t even publish weekly domestic debt figures now. Both of these agencies have disabled their websites. Neither the Ministry of Small Enterprises nor the association set up by people working in these enterprises know how many people depend on the informal sector. LEDRIZ had detailed figures for recommended wage levels, but even they have no idea how many people are in formal employment. This lack of information can be blamed on the general collapse of the economy, but it is very convenient for those elements who still hold on to positions in government despite their rejection by the electorate three times in the past decade. The extent of their ownership of the means of production is relevant to this study; how they use what they own is even more relevant.
This review will therefore depend on what can be gleaned from a laborious search of the press and from much easier observation on the streets, which may give a broad impression.
The state of the economy continues, however, to be a matter of crucial concern, not only for the present and future livelihoods of the people, but also as the rarely-expressed key to our political stand-off. Key ZANU ideologues were well aware from the early 1970s that political power was the short way to economic power throughout Africa. That has meant personal economic power and great wealth for some while the majority live in the world’s ‘second most failed state’ after Somalia. That assessment may be optimistic. Somalia never had the impressive industrial infrastructure Zimbabwe still possessed as late as 1989. Nor did Somalia, until the foreign military interventions of the past decade or so, suffer the wide-ranging disruption of traditional social structures inflicted on this country since 1890.
But why is Zimbabwe in so much worse shape today than Botswana, which has a stable one-party state built on the ruling party’s control of the economy and can even afford comparatively free media and elections? Independent Zimbabwe’s rulers did not see beyond seizing the wealth and productive resources, so we had the destructive land grab and now a push for complete ‘indigenisation’ of what remains of commerce and industry (although a Ghanaian or Ethiopian with the right party card is ‘indigenous’ while a fourth-generation Zimbabwe-born person of European or Indian ancestry is not. Nigerians, of course, are a case on their own.) None of the grabbers saw beyond seizing possession. They don’t understand, even now, that lasting wealth can only be produced by work. Botswana’s rulers, on the other hand, had first to build a productive modern economy and a more or less adequate welfare system, which they have done reasonably well on a limited range of resources. People who are fed in drought years and who have access to education and health services will often tolerate government by patronage. Zimbabwe’s rulers never grasped the idea that if you want to milk your cow you need to feed it.
Zimbabwe needs to restore its destroyed productive capacity. This means loosening the grip of those who have lived by looting for the past thirty years and inflicted destruction and death to retain their grip on what is left of the nation’s wealth in Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the election violence of the past decade. This is essential if we are to see any economic or social progress The aim would be twofold:
1)stop looting and restart production;
2)stop the diverting of state revenue into ZANU-PF coffers.
There can be no political solution at all until looting stops. And the world economy won’t engage with us until we get our politics sorted out. Mugabe must be regretting now that he accepted a man as smart as Tendai Biti as Finance Minister. Some looting has stopped.
The abandoning of the Zimbabwe dollar cut the ground from under the feet of Gideon Gono, the main supplier of foreign currency to Mugabe’s cohorts. For at least two years, the Reserve Bank had been printing duplicates of nearly every Z$ banknote, making all of them counterfeiti. When two notes of the same value exist with the same serial number, one is counterfeit. If they were printed on the same paper, with the same ink on the same press, then, being indistinguishable, they must both be counterfeit and the ZANU leadership got every duplicate banknote printed.
Controlling other leakage into the hands and pockets of opposition elements within that pantomime horse that calls itself an inclusive government remains Biti’s biggest challenge. Two obvious sources we are now all aware of are Chiadzwa diamonds and the government salaries going to ghost workers. Thousands of unauthorised workers have been identified: we don’t know how many more remain to be rooted out. The February 2010 civil servants’ strike was another ZANU-PF’s counter-move, as is made obvious by the coercion applied to teachers, in some areas, such as Masvingo, by the CIO, to make them join the strike. This must be the first strike since independence that has the whole-hearted support of the government media. This is not surprising, since the civil service has been ZANU-ised over the years.

Continued in this freely available PDF document: Zimbabwe Economy 2009

Previous Zimbabwe Economy Reports:

Zimbabwe Economy 2007

Zimbabwe Economy 2006

Zimbabwe Economy 2005

Zimbabwe Economy 2004

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