By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
28 July 2014
The Finance Ministry has reportedly secured a $1.4 million loan from a local bank for luxury vehicles for its personnel.
The loan came from the African Banking Corporation of Zimbabwe, which expects the ministry to repay it within 12 months, the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported last week.
The ministry intends to buy Mercedes Benz vehicles and while it is not clear what make, the luxury E350 sedans are particularly favoured by government officials.
The money is enough to purchase 10 of these vehicles valued at roughly $130,000 each. Analysts have questioned the planned purchase at a time of serious cash shortages, daily job losses, drugs shortages at public hospitals and delayed salaries for civil servants.
In a wide-ranging discussion on the Zim We Want Programme, ex-Finance Minister Tendai Biti said it was shocking that the government would borrow to finance luxuries for a few of its top officials when the rest of the population is struggling to survive.
“I find it unbelievable but this is just one example of how clueless, insensitive and unconcerned they are about the ordinary person.
“They should be borrowing to finance manufacturing and production and at this time businesses will do with whatever financial help they can get to remain open.”
Biti said the move was also a slap in the face for civil servants who each month are unsure whether they will get paid. “I wouldn’t be surprised if from August they fail to pay salaries altogether.”
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s excuses for his party’s failure to revive the economy have ranged from blaming the West to the country’s use of the US dollar.
But unless the Minister crafts and implements sound policies and repeals the country’s current anti-investment statutes, the shrinking economy will continue to condemn him.
And this should go beyond the government’s “inarticulate slogan called ZimAsset”, according to Biti.
“The government should understand that stimulating production should be the first step towards reviving the dead economy. It is dead because there is no investment and local firms can’t recapitalise themselves in the current climate.
“Assistance for distressed companies has been scrapped, firms are closing every day, throwing hundreds of workers out of jobs every week,” Biti said.
Biti also called for a total overhaul of the country’s Indigenisation Act, which he said is a huge stumbling block for foreign investment, and also called for an end to farm invasions.
“We need a total repeal, not just an amendment, of this law because no foreign investor, no matter how keen, will seriously risk losing 51% of their business by coming to Zimbabwe.”
As the cash shortages persist, the government has since intensified its revenue collection efforts through ZIMRA, amid plans to tax mobile phone users and street vendors.
“They are insensitive to the plight of Zimbabweans. ZIMRA is under pressure to collect revenue but in their aggression they are ignoring the fact that firms are defaulting because they are not producing much and in the process many of them are closing down.
“Zimbabweans are poor and it shows lack of leadership and ideas by this government to tax someone selling tomatoes and vegetables,” Biti added.
Biti, who is part of the MDC-Team Renewal group, proposed a 16 point plan which he said will help towards fixing the economy.