29 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Business Leaders Disappointed By Exclusion From Mugabe's China Trip

THE country's business sector is baffled and disappointed by its exclusion from President Robert Mugabe's trip to China aimed at breathing life into the economy.

Mugabe on Saturday went on a week-long state visit to China to join seven government ministers who include Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha, Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, Transport minister Obert Mpofu and Tourism minister Walter Mzembi.

Nine major agreements were reportedly signed to provide financial support for economic enablers in critical sectors that include energy, roads, railways, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism. Representatives of various business organisations such as the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Mines told the Zimbabwe Independent that they had not been invited but refused to comment further.

However, business leaders in off-the-record briefings said they were "baffled and disappointed" by their exclusion from the trip as they have intricate knowledge of what is needed to revive vital sectors such as manufacturing and mining, which could have been a vital component in the state visit. This is in stark contrast to South African President Jacob Zuma who took a strong business delegation to Russia for bilateral trade talks with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Economist John Robertson said the private sectors were probably left out so that they would not know what the government has pledged in return for loans they received from China.

"It is a major concern as to what will be pledged to China," Robertson said "They probably did not want the private sector to know what has been put up as security for the loan."

He said involvement of the business sector, particularly the banking sector, could have assisted the government with advice on issues such as investment procedures as well as the legal ramifications of some of the agreements signed with the growing Asian giant.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze said this shows that government "wants to resolve issues unilaterally".

He said without cohesion the country will continue to suffer from structural regression.

"Part of the real challenge is that we have a detached leadership" Kanyenze pointed out.

"We have what one called a presidential state - that which is run by the presidency and everyone else doesn't matter."

Kanyenze said this showed the lack of participatory democracy which is not sustainable.

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