ZIMBABWE – Former Finance minister Tendai Biti says President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF will not implement reforms committed to Zimbabwe under the International Monetary Fund’s Staff Monitoring Programme as it entails dismantling the machinery which has allows him to have a stranglehold on power, a move he desribed as “suicidal”.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday, Biti said Mugabe and Zanu PF will not implement the reforms as the country seeks substantive debt relief because it will be “political suicide” for the party.
“Debt relief must be earned but that is not possible if the government is not walking the talk. Government must present unequivocal and unambiguous evidence of reforms,” Biti said.
“Implementing reforms means retrenching the bloated civil service which has close to 550 000 strong workforce gobbling over 80% of revenues.
“Accepting reforms means dismantling the machinery which brought Zanu PF into power and they are not ready to dismantle that power retention infrastructure. A good example is that during my time there were 235 000 civil servants, but now there are over 550 000 employees.
“Government must fire those 200 000 ghost workers who were recruited during the run-up to the 2008 and 2013 elections. Genuine reforms demand that those people are fired like yesterday, but political expedience means that those people cannot be fired because they brought you in power and the next election is less than 36 months away.”
In a letter of intent to the IMF in April, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya committed Zimbabwe to a raft of measures mainly focused on cutting the wage bill and restructuring parastatals which are a huge drain on the fiscus.
The Bretton Woods institution officials who were in the country last month also underlined that Zimbabwe needs to create a friendly investment climate and attract foreign direct investment (FDI), as well as capital from other sources if the economy is to recover and grow. It however warned Zimbabweans to brace for a difficult remainder of the year.
“Economic difficulties have intensified this year. Growth has slowed more than anticipated and we expect it to remain weak in 2015,” an IMF team, which was in the country for the SMP review, said in its latest statement.
To promote investment, Zimbabwe also committed itself to clarifying the controversial indigenisation act which has been criticised as obstructive by investors. Some government ministers believe the law should be totally repealled.
However, Biti said Mugabe and Zanu PF are not ready to repeal the controversial law which has been in operation since 2009.
“Genuine reform demands that the controversial indigenisation policy is repealled, but then again political expedience means they must maintain the line because that was their election slogan,” he said.
The indigenisation policy requires foreign firms to cede at least 51% equity to local individuals or companies.