By Leopold Munhende
FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube says Zimbabweans shall have to wait for two years to start feeling any positive impact of his controversial austerity measures he introduced late last year.
“I think two years is what we need to really feel the impact of these reforms. We need stability in the country…there is a lot that we are doing already and we are achieving this in record time,” Ncube said during a recent live interview on state television.
The former Africa Development Bank (AfDB) chief economist and one-time vice president was appointed into President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government last year with high hopes he was going to use his experience and world renowned stature to mend the country’s battered economy.
He began his tenure on a controversial note, introducing a two percent levy on all electronic transfers made using the local currency.
Ncube also introduced 5 percent salary cuts for the president, ministers and senior government officials, while also putting a pledge to further trim the size of Zimbabwe’s foreign embassies.
The treasury boss further announced he was laying off of about 3 000 workers on government payroll while also setting aside an initial $53m to compensate white farmers whose land was grabbed by militant Zanu PF supporters over the past 19 years.
Hard-pressed Zimbabweans have become increasingly impatient with their leaders following continued price increases that have whittled down their incomes’ buying power with signs the Zanu PF administrations was failing to arrest the crisis.
Ncube, in his remarks, felt it was still too early to start judging the success of his efforts.
“Remember this government has only been doing this since the 4th of October 2018. Most people forget that. That is when the TSP was launched; so you are evaluating us over a period of just six months,” he said.
“Give us time. Give the policies time to work and we are going to see positive results of the policies. That is what the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) says.”
Ncube’s austerity measures, by rule of thumb, have failed as they have triggered steep price increases and acute shortages of basic commodities including fuel.
Protests by teachers, nurses and doctors have been witnessed as a result of the biting policies he said were already showing positive signs.
Added Ncube, “We are walking the talk on the objectives of the TSP. In the last four months, we have been able to record a running surplus of RTG$100 million and that has been very helpful in dealing with such events as the cyclone (Idai).
“Not a cent has been withdrawn in the overdraught facility and we are determined to keep it that way. We have also been able to pay wages in the months of January, February and March from a cash positive position for the first time in 10 years.”
Ncube introduced the TSP last year with the clearing of the country’s arrears to the IMF and World bank at the top of his priority list.