By Alois Vinga
FORMER Finance Minister, Tendai Biti has described the government’s recently announced ZW$18 billion COVID-19 Economic Recovery and Stimulus Package as ‘fictitious’.
In a special address to the nation at State House last Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a ZW$18 billion package for distressed companies due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Most of these companies reopened for business Monday after a five-week national lockdown.
“The package is proportionate to the disruption the virus has caused in our national economy. The Economic Recovery and Stimulus Package is designed to scale up production in all sectors of the economy in response to the adverse effect of COVID-19,” Mnangagwa said last week.
“The package will also be used to address the needs of the small-scale industries, improve health facilities, reduce poverty and hardships, and assist vulnerable groups in our society.”
However, Biti who is also the MDC Alliance Vice President, described Mnangagwa’s announcement as all talk without real money on the table to support his pledge.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com in an interview, the former Treasury boss said he had it on good account that Mnangagwa’s statement on the rescue package was nothing but mere figures.
“Mnangagwa is a leader who is deeply obsessed with figures running into billions of dollars but it is a known fact that his government is broke and has no capacity to raise such a huge fund,” he said.
“For months now, health workers have not received their COVID-19 allowances and personal protective equipment.
“Government has made promises to assist the poor and vulnerable households during the COVID-19 lockdown but up to now, nothing has materialised. Above all, some of these promises were made almost a month ago.”
The fiery politician accused Mnangagwa of trying to put up an act which is synonymous to the announcements made by his counterpart, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa. Last month, Ramaphosa announced a R500 million COVID-19 package for his country.
“Why does he announce the stimulus package just after Ramaphosa has made similar announcements? While copying and pasting is allowed, when it comes to figures Mnangagwa must be very realistic because it raises citizens’ expectations high,” he said, adding Zimbabwe’s bankruptcy was a public secret.
“If we have that kind of money, why would Mnangagwa instruct his Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube to write a letter to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) seeking urgent dialogue and admitting that the country is headed for a health and economic catastrophe because of limited access to foreign currency?”
The amount announced by Mnangagwa is equivalent to US$720 million.