11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Biti's Reckless Utterances Costly


When Finance Minister Tendai Biti made his shocking and slipshod disclosure of what he termed the country's financial reserves, many responsible citizens called on the principals to take a stern action against him.

They felt, precisely so, that such a popcorn statement would have seismic effects on the nation.

Failure to heed their call would be a grave miscarriage of justice.

Biti, whether he was dramatising the country's alleged bankruptcy or not, told the whole world that after paying civil servants' salaries, the national coffers were left with a paltry US$217.

The statement which was unsolicited, misled the world and subsequently created alarm and despondency in some circles.

Biti's statement has started bearing sour fruits for the country and it will continue making indelible dents on the country's political and economic profile.

Soon after his reckless statement, Intellex, a Japanese company which owns the building that houses our Tokyo embassy, approached the embassy to inquire whether the embassy still had the capacity to continue paying rentals.

The following day, Intellex demanded the full payment of outstanding rentals of US$57 143 within seven days.

One wonders where Intellex expects the Zimbabwean government to get that money from considering the US$217 balance which they were made to believe was Zimbabwe's national purse.

The outstanding arrears accrued from November last year after the same Minister, Biti defaulted to pay. If the learned lawyer had anticipated garnering empathy, then he has to go back to the drawing board.

Again, his utterances nearly cost Zimbabwe the lifetime opportunity of co-hosting the UNWTO in August this year. It is reported that during the recent trilateral meetings in Spain, the UNWTO secretariat expressed doubts on the capacity of the country to host the mega event given the bank balance that Biti had announced. Imagine the benefits the country was to lose.

Biti must stop behaving like someone who is not in Government. Everybody in the inclusive Cabinet was assigned some responsibilities. Biti, as the Minister of Finance, was charged with the management of Government financial assets.

This also includes amortising debt and co-ordinating all the financial activities carried out within the scope of his ministry's power, for the different ministries and their related entities.

As a Minister of Finance, Biti has totally failed the nation. Unfortunately, his recent verbal diarrhoea suggests that the man is attempting to shift blame from himself.

His action is akin to a fool who celebrates when his house is on fire. This is how the coalition government is costing the nation. We thought MDC-T had amassed a vast experience of governance in their four-year stint in the inclusive government.

Their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, once expressed his gratefulness for having Zanu-PF in Government as he admitted that the MDC-T would not have been able to govern alone if it had won the 2008 election.

The next honourable step for the minister is to quit, at least he can salvage some semblance of honour, more so with his poor grounding in the area that he superintends. Until this recent careless statement, l used to wonder why almost everyone in MDC-T, let alone in other political groupings, has a beef with Biti.

If he was from one of the most principled parties in the GPA, Biti would have not survived another week before being recalled.

A similar utterance was made last year by the former Permanent Secretary in the ministry of tourism and hospitality industry, Dr Sylvester Maunganidze.

As a result, he was immediately recalled. One would think Tsvangirai learnt a lesson from that incident.

MDC-T has better technocrats for the job than Biti.

This is the danger of entrusting the country's finances on a lawyer when bookkeepers are available.

Gordon Moyo, who held fort when Biti went for a sabbatical last year, significantly proved to be a better student minister.

Here is free advice for Tsvangirai to recall this man and let him concentrate on party business as the secretary-general.

Biti even shocked his party's international sympathisers in the media. They have all the reasons to be stunned because it's unprecedented for a Finance Minister to divulge the state of the country's reserves.

It's even more appalling that it came from a trained lawyer who swore to secrecy and upholding of the constitution. Even corporates don't dish out bank balances to the media.

Minister Biti should have plucked a leaf from how the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor conducted himself during the days of hyperinflation.

Biti is supposed to be presiding over the resuscitation of the industry that collapsed as a result of the sanctions. How on earth does he expect foreign investment when he washes his dirty linen in public?

Which investor dares risking his money in an economy that is under the stewardship of such an unstable minister? The performance of the government is now brought under undue scrutiny.

No sane creditor would be so reckless to loan a country that leaves its reserves in the red.

Consequently, Biti's statement has gravely impacted on the nation's creditworthiness. How does he expect to create the one million jobs that his party's economic blueprint prescribes when he is uttering statements that chase away potential investors?

Copyright © 2013 The Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.