To the initiated, Zimbabwe’s economic woes need no introduction at all. Depending on how you measure it Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil, if were a person, would be aged between 18 and 23 years old. Zimbabwe was on upward GDP trajectory until 2006 and it hasn’t been the same since. Black Monday and riots associated with it came in 1998. The 2001 land reform was another watershed moment. Policy after policy, plan after plan the government had tried with limited success dig Zimbabwe out of the whole it has found itself in. So discouraged is the collective Zimbabwean soul that each new policy, plan or development is met with “let’s wait and see”. Could this actually be our undoing?
Monday the 24th of June the latest policy was sprung on us a surprise, sort of. The return of the Zimbabwean dollar, in name at least, was sprung on the people of Zimbabwe and the reaction was once again “let’s wait and see”. The resignation here is quite understandable as those old enough to will recall we ditched the Zimbabwean dollar for the multicurrency era in order to save the nation. While it’s been 10 years since the fundamentals that needed to be changed have not changed.
Word on the streets and in business corridors right now with regards to this policy change is “let’s wait and see” where things go. Businesses are in a state of paralysis. While few have greatly increased their prices and fewer still (only one known case) have reduced their prices many are in a state of limbo.
Almost as if people are waiting for the prophet to return from the mountain with stone tablets engraved with the next set of instructions. The parallel market for foreign currency seems to have taken a back seat as those who buy there are enjoying the discount on the precious US dollar. The fact of the matter is businesses still need foreign currency and the appreciation of the rate on the interbank market, which is yet to sort out its supply side, doesn’t seem to have any effect on small and informal businesses.
The unfortunate part of the “wait and see” game is that it is also a game of wait and see the loopholes in the policy. These we have had many of in the past and the way the present plan was rolled out means more loopholes than we can imagine. We’ve seen the confusion that has been brought up. This is where speculators who are being targeted by the new policy measures thrive.
The lack of consultation on policy issues has left many as bystanders in the economy. Left to pick up the pieces after the hurricane has run through our economies and livelihoods. Perhaps a more proactive approach would be better. An approach to policy that not only considers our needs but puts them at the forefront. Assessing the outcomes and effects that we have to live with thereafter.