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Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube arrives at the Parliament of Zimbabwe to present the national annual budget, a few days after the introduction of a new currency in the country, in Harare, on November 14, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Business

Govt’s ZW$18bn Covid-19 rescue package a pipe dream

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ZIMBABWE’S industry players have lost hope of ever accessing the ZW$18 billion Covid-19 economic recovery and stimulus package announced by the government last year to provide liquidity support to several sectors of the economy.

DUMISANI NYONI

Equivalent to 9% of the country’s gross domestic product by then, the stimulus package was meant to put Zimbabwe on a recovery trajectory following the devastating impact of Covid-19.

Out of the amount, agriculture was allocated ZW$6.08 billion, industry (working capital fund) ZW$3.02 billion, mining sector (ZW$1 billion), small and medium enterprise support fund (ZW$500 million), arts sector fund (ZW$20 million), liquidity release from statutory reserves (ZW$2 billion), health sector support fund (ZW$1 billion), broad relief measures (ZW$1.5 billion) and food grant (ZW$2.4 billion).

Industry players who spoke to The NewsHawks this week revealed that they had lost hope of accessing the package given the country’s sluggish economic performance, among other factors.

“We don’t even know where that money is, whether it exists or what. At some point last year, we had a follow-up meeting with Industry and Commerce minister (Sekai Nzenza) on the ZW$18 billion stimulus package and we didn’t get much of the joy of understanding what could have happened and where the money is and all other things,” Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce vice-president Golden Muoni said.

“The chances of us getting that money are now getting slimmer and slimmer given that the government is now busy looking for Covid-19 vaccines and to roll out the programme of vaccinating the frontline workers and the general population.”

The government is in the process of mobilising the necessary resources to buy Covid-19 vaccines.

“Given our economic challenges, to think of getting that ZW$18 billion, it might be a mystery. I don’t think it’s possible at this point given that the government has some budgetary constraints due to the economic environment which has been ravaged by this corona as well,” Muoni said.

“So, to have the space within their budget to get that ZW$18 billion it might be a tall order. We will keep watching and also keep looking at how they are going to do it, but I don’t think, in my view, it’s still possible for us to get that ZW$18 billion,” he said.  

Zimbabwe’s economy is currently struggling, with Covid-19 affecting all sectors, yet at the same time inflation is spiralling out of control.

Victor Nyoni, chief executive officer of the Association for Business in Zimbabwe (ABUZ), said their members did not benefit from the package.

“We did not benefit from that fund as ABUZ. There was no clarity on how to access it and a lot of people were then not interested in some cases. These things also happened during the time when there was the (Covid-19) lockdown. There was no interest given the experience that it has not helped at all,” he said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Henry Ruzvidzo, however, believed that some of their members managed to access the fund.

But CZI’s Bulawayo chamber late last year revealed that its members had not received their share of the government’s ZW$18 billion rescue package.

Efforts to get a comment from Finance minister Mthuli Ncube as well as his permanent secretary George Guvamatanga were fruitless as their phones went unanswered.

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