067_Global12_InFocus_Zimbabwe

Global 13

In FocusZimbabwe The high cost of schizophrenia If ever a country’s economy can be described as having a personality disorder, then surely it must apply to Zimbabwe. From independence, its well-developed commercial farming and manufacturing sectors, as well as rich mineral deposits, led to years of growth and expansion and promised an ever-brighter future. However,Anver Versi looks at how an incredible disparity of wealth, an endless cycle of boom and bust and confused government policy have undermined economic progress At the time of independence in 1980, Zim- babwe inherited, courtesy of the ‘self-suffi- ciency’ drive by the previous embattled Ian Smith regime, one of the best-developed economic superstructures in Africa. The new majority government led by Robert Mugabe capitalised on the country’s national assets – a sophisticated commercial farming sec- tor exporting some of the best tobacco and cotton in the world; a strong manufacturing sector; and a pile of very high value minerals such as gold, diamonds and platinum. In ad- ism destination made in heaven. Credit: Swathi Sridharan CC BY-SA 2.0-Released from the international sanctions dition, with the thundering Victoria Falls, the mystical Matobo Hills, the thrilling rapids of the Zambezi River and a treasure house of wild flora and fauna, Zimbabwe was a tour imposed on the Smith regime, Zimbabwe’s first decade after independence was a gold- en period with growth reaching 10 percent in some years. There was a rapid roll-out Agriculture is still the most important economic activity in the country of education and health facilities for the majority, and an expanded government pro- tion of the manufacturing sector when the been fortunate enough to obtain jobs cannot vided decent jobs for blacks who had previ- African National Congress (ANC) govern- make ends meet without borrowing. ously been shut out of the mainstream. ment in South Africa cancelled some of its Ironically, inequality, the reduction of But there was an obvious canker at the favourable trade agreements with Zimba- which was the ostensible rationale behind heart of the progress – a tiny minority of bwe leading to mass hardship for the major- the land redistribution policy, has increased. less than 5,000 white families controlled 75 ity. When the British government washed The Gini coefficient, which measures in- percent of the most productive land in the its hands of providing compensation for come disparity, was estimated at 57 percent, country. Even by 1991, 50 percent of the displaced white farmers, the die was cast. one of the highest in the world in 2003. population received less than 15 percent of The events that followed have been well All of the country’s major economic pil- total annual incomes and about 15 percent catalogued and the rights and wrongs of the lars – agriculture, mining, manufacturing of total consumption, while the richest 3 various parties involved will continue to and services – were dealt hammer blows. percent of the population received 30 per- be argued for some time to come. The net Agriculture is still the most important eco- cent of total incomes and were responsible result was one of the most rapid and cata- nomic activity in the country as it provides for 30 percent of total consumption. strophic falls in the economic fortunes of a livelihood for the majority and produces Disparity of such magnitude could not be any country in the world. the bulk of the nation’s food and raw mate- contained by the government’s feeble at- According to the African Development rials for its industries. In 2001, according to tempts to ‘take back the economy’ by adding Bank (AfDB), between 2000 and 2008, the AfDB, the share of agriculture in GDP to its list of nationalised industries or spout- GPD declined by over 50 percent. Per cap- was around 22 percent; it fell to 10 percent ing quasi-socialist rhetoric. If anything, both ita income fell sharply from about $644 in in 2008, while its value-added component measures led to gross inefficiencies and, 1990 to $433 in 2006, and to an estimated shrank by 66 percent. ironically, to the stamping down on promis- $338 in 2008. The poverty rate increased The severe contraction of the agricultural ing shoots of black private sector enterprise. from 42 percent in 1995 to 63 percent in sector had ripple effects throughout the Throughout the 1990s, the economy re- 2003, and is currently estimated to be over economy. There have always been strong mained vulnerable to the vagaries of the 70 percent. Some estimates put unemploy- linkages between the agricultural and man- climate, leading to boom and bust cycles. A ment at 80 percent, and Zimbabwean com- ufacturing sectors, with the former supply- series of droughts and the sudden decima- mentators say that even those who have ing a sizeable proportion of the of the raw globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l67


Global 13
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