When is enough, enough?

By Eddie Cross

IN 1980, we took over a small diversified economy that was virtually debt free (total national debt $700 million), more or less free of corruption and employed nearly two million of our population of five million adults.
We were nearly totally self-sufficient and 95 percent of what we bought in a supermarket was locally grown or manufactured.
This position was maintained up to 1997 when several macroeconomic shocks disabled the State and pushed the Zimbabwe economy over the edge.
Today our gross domestic product (GDP) is only $14,6 billion and we import a great majority of what we consume.
Our national debt is now pegged between $18 billion and $20 billion, making us one of the most indebted poor countries in the world.
Foreign aid is about eight percent of GDP — mostly directed to health and humanitarian needs, half our population is on food aid.
Remittances from the millions who live abroad is now equal to about 21 percent of GDP.
Employment in the private sector is now down to perhaps 250 000 — half of the numbers employed in the public service which is now seven times larger than in 1980 and absorbs over 90 percent of State revenue.
In 2016, revenue to the State was $3,4 billion, expenditure was $4,8 billion and the fiscal deficit was $1,4 billion or 41 percent of revenue and 29 percent of all expenditure.
To fund this the State issued $2,6 billion in Treasury Bills, wiping out the cash balances in all banks and resulting in the cash shortages which now threaten to cripple the rest of the economy.
In the middle of this progression we saw the economy collapse from 1997 to 2008, from $15 billion to $1,3 billion in 2008, masked by inflation which reached record levels by 2008 resulting in the total collapse of the local currency which had been worth US$2 to one ZW$ in 1980.
This collapse launched a major flight of our population with millions seeking refuge from the widespread politically motivate violence, sanctioned by the State and deepening poverty and hunger.
Families across the country sent sons and daughters out to other countries to earn money to send home, others simply packed their bags and walked across the borders for good.
Today, I am not surprised that we have a third of our population living abroad, in terms of the G20 “Compact with Africa”, another five million are “sitting on their suitcases”.
Coupled to this shambles in our local affairs, we are isolated from most of our potential friends and our country is classified as a pariah State with a corrupt government.
In the region, we are a joke.
I think the Zimbabwe government deserves a qualified opinion from our auditors, don’t you? The question remains when is enough, enough?
This is an abridged version of economic commentator Eddie Cross’ blog post titled “When is enough, enough?’

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