The prospects of early political change could be driven by the rapidly evolving global climatic changes which are likely to exacerbate food insecurity in the region. Government’s current policies can offer no immediate relief, and as this becomes more apparent, more of the population will realize that government has little prospect of arresting the masses’ slide into deeper poverty.
As a high proportion of the urbanized people working in the private sector will experience this, the levels of their opposition to government policies might be expected to increase steeply. However, a few will be protected by virtue of their involvement with food processing or distribution, but the viability of companies in the productive and service sectors generally is likely to decline appreciably. Mining and public sector employees are likely to be best protected from these uncertainties. In the wake of fall in other private sector activities, government tax revenues will decline. However, its commitment to help the several hundred thousand new farmers survive and to dampen down the prospects of social unrest will force it to accept very much higher expenditure outflows than it can sustain. Falls in subsidies and other transfers seem inevitable at some point, but before that point is reached, government will be very likely to be resort to heavy financial borrowing from international development banks.
The conditions these difficulties would create could become so severe that a change of leadership within the ruling party or even a change of government would become less remote possibilities. As Zimbabwe’s refugee problems become a threat serious enough to destabilize the region, the pressures might mount from regional governments to bring about policy changes. International bodies that are still trying to influence events in Zimbabwe might then be expected to drive these changes more deeply into economic structures to restore acceptable business relationships. Occasionally, Zimbabwe makes it back onto the agendas of other countries and organizations. Proposals have been made for further sanctions against Zimbabwe and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the US government was once caught as saying not in the so distant past that Robert Mugabe was no longer recognized as the legitimate head of state.
The visit by Barack Obama of the US to Africa in 2015 echoed the same public sentiments and pronouncements over President Mugabe’s stand as illegitimate a citation showing that polarization was becoming more pronounced. The statements reflecting concern over policy choices in Zimbabwe drew hostile responses that also firmed-up the recent factional intransigence within the ruling ZANU PF party. While it is news that their will be fresh farm invasions after the 2015 land audit, prospects are that the food security of the country will be greatly reduced. A few white farmers are known to have not surrendered their farms as they had not been forced like the rest of their kinsmen to abandon their properties. The new farm seizures will leave these white farmers landless. There is no hope that their rights will be upheld and eventually they will have to lose all their property as none will be restored to them.
Government’s decision to nationalize nearly all of the country’s commercial farms has led to a sharp decline in export earnings as well as food production. The need to pay for substantial food imports has intensified the impact of reduced foreign earnings, while the policy choices in general have prompted foreign banks to withdraw credit lines and most aid donors to suspend their Zimbabwe operations.
Though there are strong talks going on between our government and the IMF and World Bank chances are not very high that credit lines will once again be resuscitated to drive the countries major economic sectors such agriculture, mining, transport and manufacturing.
Balance of payments support is not available because the IMF and World Bank disapprove of the government’s policies and because Zimbabwe is in arrears with its repayment commitments to these bodies. The country is also in arrears in its payments to the suppliers of a variety of essential imports, among which the fuel and electricity suppliers are the more obvious. As these and other cuts have bitten deeper into business efficiency, creditors in other economic fields have felt the need to further reduce their exposure.
To address these issues, government has come up with ZIM-ASSET economic blue print program. The document focuses on restoring conditions necessary for full agricultural production, the reversal of de-industrialization, the increase in capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector, the resuscitation of closed companies including mines, and the realization of the full potential of tourism. If Zimbabwe were to be persuaded to return to a more viable economic structure, or if revised policies were adopted after a change in leadership, the specific issues that would demand immediate attention would be to ensure the restoration of property rights and the market for agricultural land; the generation of title deeds for those resettlement farmers prepared to pay for land; and through the generation of title and transferability, the removal of the resettlement farmers’ effective isolation from the financial institutions; the negotiation of substantial budget support and balance of payments support in the form of long-term loans from the IMF and World Bank; the negotiation of a domestic debt refinancing package to enable the nation’s savings to be repaid to the financial institutions; the adoption of economic policies that would encourage the return of foreign investors and would persuade international lenders that the country is, once again, a good credit risk; the negotiation of substantial credit lines from international banks and supplier credit from suppliers of essential industrial materials; and the overhaul of Zimbabwe’s exchange rate and monetary policies that is when our local currency hits back, with the object of placing the exchange rate and interest rates back under the influence of market forces.
Under the current circumstance of drastic global climatic changes, Zimbabwe’s prospects to recovery and register marked economic growth will be grossly tempered with and the process greatly retarded as prospects of reasonable crops in 2016 will fade, alongside the rapid escalation of debt, thus plunging the country into much more severe levels of poverty. From this, an eventual escape will be a much slower and longer process. As long as there is no reaction to the deep-seated consequences of Zimbabwe’s disastrous economic policies by the current government, no moves are expected that will repair the damage that has already been done. The adoption of well-chosen policies that would help the country to qualify for a rescue package and eventually restore export volumes, but do not address investor requirements, might at best be a thorn in the flesh for the impoverished masses. However, much bolder and more dramatic measures would be needed for a faster turn-around, such as an extensive revision of official policies and the restoration of property rights. Such measures would restore investor confidence and put in place to place the country back onto a recovery path. Much needed changes would have to include a return to the rule of law based upon acceptable property rights; they would necessarily have to include a reversal of provisions in the land reform program that made land free and distributable by political patronage. It might appear that, politically, the ruling party could never meet such a steep demand. But this has adverse economic implications that are expected to be equally threatening to political stability. This challenge will be just the first of many.
With the fast global climatic change visiting our region there is need for government to invest in research programs that help exploit the area of water management aimed at supplying water for irrigation so that the country’s agricultural sector stabilizes and becomes competent enough to produce for the nation with surplus. Far-reaching government choices will have to be made and restoring market value—and therefore collateral value—to land will be among the more important if respectable production volumes are to be achieved. Any administration that has serious intentions of rebuilding food self-sufficiency and investor confidence will have to fully accept this fact.
Climatic changes will virtually make certain that next year’s agricultural harvests will be a big flop. The return of investor confidence and the reduction of the potential threat that Zimbabwe poses to the stability of the region will also depend upon policy changes. If they were started immediately, a sequence of successful measures would prevent the loss of much that is now on the brink of collapsing. However, a realistic assessment is that government will not believe it has taken a wrong turning before the predicted failure takes place. Even if the current leadership is displaced before that event, it will take with it a strong belief that it would have succeeded.
These extreme climatic changes currently visiting our region are set to cause worse and unpredictable economic uncertainties among the already beleaguered Zimbabwean populace. The threat of an impending drought this year due to the poor 2015-2016 rainfall season will likely cause acute food shortages.
Reports from anonymous food security monitoring agencies have claimed that some families have already started applying negative coping strategies in the grain deficit areas. Families are resorting to reducing number of meals and portion sizes; consuming less preferred and less nutritious food. This affects dietary diversity resulting in poor consumption and increased prospects of poor nutritional outcomes especially in children. Other coping strategies include: sale of productive assets, distress sales of livestock at give-away prices, increased migration for casual labor, and increase in school drop-outs while households will have limited tillage capacity to work on the land.
President Mugabe has since responded by assuring the people that his government of Zimbabwe has set aside thousands of tonnes of maize for food relief out of a reported Strategic Grain Reserve of around 440,000 mt. However the government’s response capacity is limited and further assistance is expected from humanitarian actors.
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