By Anna Chibamu
ZIMBABWE’s economy is on a strong rebound and could emerge stronger than other countries in the SADC region and the rest of the African continent, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has claimed.
In an interview with the cable news network, CNN, Treasury chief also claimed government was looking after millions of vulnerable people, mainly in the rural areas, through the provision of free farming inputs, health and education subsidies as well as regularly giving them free cash.
He made the claims while responding to questions on the worsening economic situation in the country, worsened by the devastating Covid-19 pandemic and the limited fiscal and monetary space.
“Zimbabwe situation is going the other way like you have just said. We are actually managing the budget, and that is what I have been doing in the last two years,” Ncube, who was appointed Finance Minister by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September 2018, said in response to the CNN interviewer.
“We have a strong economic recovery where Zimbabwe will grow faster than its peers in the region and its peers in Africa. We have set aside a decent amount of resources to acquire vaccines and in fact in the next three weeks, we are going on a blitz to basically vaccinate to the tune of two and a half million people.
“We are doing very well,” Ncube boasted.
Asked why he was painting a “rosy picture” on Zimbabwe’s economic recovery when over 7,5 million people, which is half of the country’s population, were, according to the World Bank, living in poverty, Ncube responded by saying government had established a robust social programme to support vulnerable communities.
“We have a very robust social protection programme which has various elements. First, there is a social protection element where we give free (agricultural) inputs to citizens to farm, and they have done very well. They have produced about one million metric tonnes of maize.”
“We are also protecting the vulnerable in rural areas through cash transfers and through free medication, and the (Covid-19) vaccine is free. So, we have a very robust social protection programme that includes free schooling for vulnerable children.”
“This is going very well indeed. Of course, we are doing this with assistance of our traditional partners as well. So, something is being done and we believe we have had the best response to the pandemic so far and our vaccination programme is fairly robust and well run in-fact,” he said.
Ncube’s averments are, however, in sharp contrast to a study by Afrobarometer, which found out that most Zimbabweans are unhappy with the direction the country is taking, and they were suffering without cash, water, and other basics.
“Two-thirds (67%) of Zimbabweans say the country is going in the wrong direction. On the economic situation: Almost three-quarters (72%) described the country’s economic condition as fairly bad or very bad,” the report said.
“An overwhelming majority (87%) of Zimbabweans say they went without a cash income several times, many times, or always during the previous year,” the report noted adding the majority of Zimbabweans rated Mnangagwa’s administration badly.