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Independence without welfare rings hollow



ZIMBABWE turned 44 on 18 April, but civil society organisations say the government is unlikely to meet its ambitious vision of attaining upper middle-income economy status by 2030, amid a worsening socio-economic crisis.


The official 2024 Independence Day programme was marked by low-key commemorations, with no noteworthy festivities in urban areas compared to previous years, indicating diminishing enthusiasm about the event.

In its Independence Day message, a social justice watchdog, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), said the country is facing economic uncertainty due to deteriorating social services coupled by a plummeting currency.

“Despite strides in various sectors, Zimbabwe continues to grapple with significant socio-economic issues that hinder its growth and development. Zimbabwe has just declared a nationwide state of disaster due to drought caused by the El Niño climate pattern,” reads the statement.

“An estimated US$2 billion is required in aid to mitigate the effects of the drought and ‘ensure’ food security for affected populations. The poor rains have resulted in more than 2.7 million people facing food insecurity, with the current grain harvest projected to meet only half of the nation’s cereal needs.

“The fluctuating value of the Zimbabwe dollar currency or newly introduced Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) has been a major source of economic uncertainty, affecting businesses and individuals alike. This contributes to a lack of public trust and market confidence in the local unit thus fueling currency substitution and depreciation.”

The newly introduced ZiG currency backed by gold and other precious minerals is already shedding value against the United States dollar on the parallel market, raising eyebrows over its future.

For instance, the currency depreciated twice in a day from 20 ZiG to 21 ZiG, barely a fortnight after its introduction while the abandoned Zimbabwe dollar is being rejected by a section of traders across the country, despite the central bank’s directive that it is still legal tender until 30 April. Zimbabwe’s healthcare is also continually facing serious challenges that include inadequate financing, corruption, higher spending on salaries than service delivery and a lack of community participation in health matters.

“Access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, and education remains a challenge for many Zimbabweans, especially those in rural areas. Ensuring equitable access to essential services is crucial for promoting social inclusion and human development.

“To tackle the drought crisis and ensure food security, the government should implement water conservation measures, provide support for farmers to adopt climate-resilient practices and strengthen early warning systems. Additionally, investing in rural infrastructure, promoting small-scale entrepreneurship, and enhancing social protection programmes is crucial.”

Another governance watchdog, the legal grouping Veritas, said Zimbabwe is unlikely to meet its vision of achieving an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

“As we commemorate Independence Day…it is important to take note that we are only six years away from the 2030 deadline and six years have already elapsed since we set out the goal to be an upper middle-income economy,” Veritas said.

“We need to reflect on whether or not, at this halfway mark, we are making real progress towards the vision.”

To be regarded as an upper middle-income economy, the World Bank states that a country needs to have a gross national income (GNI) of between US$4 466-US$13 845 per capita.

GNI is the total amount of money earned by a nation’s people as well as its businesses and it also includes the gross domestic product (GDP) as well as income from exports; this total is then divided by the number of people in the country. In 2022, Zimbabwe’s GNI per capita was only US$1 500.

“Analysts do say however that it is possible for Zimbabwe to reach the required GNI to be an upper middle-income economy by 2030, but it will not be an easy feat. Major growth in the main economic sectors would have to take place — some having to double in size,” Veritas said.

“We also have to look at the distribution of wealth. GNI can be boosted by a top layer of very wealthy people, leaving the majority of citizens living below the poverty datum line. This is not a result we should aim for.”

Zimbabwe’s claims of reaching landmark economic targets has always been under scrutiny.

For instance, in October last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa sensationally claimed that Zimbabwe’s mining has surpassed a US$12 billion target set for 2023, which was disputed by latest statistics by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat).

According to ZimStat, the mining industry is trailing the wholesale and retail sectors in terms of contribution to gross domestic product.

Of the top five contributors, mining with a 13.2% contribution, has been trailing behind wholesale and retail trade with 18.7% out of a total GDP of ZW$12 388 trillion in 2022, with the country’s GDP estimated by the International Monetary Fund to have reached US$47.08 billion in October 2023.

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