Africa
Roundup: New Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers prime for work as citizens expect quick results
Last Updated: 2018-09-12 16:23 | Xinhua
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New Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa began their work Tuesday with an orientation program as they embark on a five-year journey to try and revive the country's economic fortunes.

New finance minister Mthuli Ncube carries the biggest burden of expectations as the nations is eager to see how he will steer the economy from the current doldrums, arouse investor confidence, improve liquidity and provide enablers for the various sectors of the economy to get back on the rails.

After being sworn in as minister, he outlined part of his vision to the media, which included coming up with measures to boost foreign currency reserves, and build confidence through external debt arrears clearance, improved tax collection, cutting the budget deficit and retiring the surrogate bond note currency.

"There is a plan that I have put in place and will accelerate to make sure that this debt issue is dealt with. It is one building block towards creating confidence, towards investors investing in Zimbabwe," he said.

Prior to his appointment, he has also talked about the huge government expenditure where more than 80 percent of revenue goes to salaries.

He wants to create an economy that over time exhibits strong growth that is shared, sustained and inclusive.

Apart from the huge external debts of over 11 billion U.S. dollars, Zimbabwe is also plagued by high unemployment levels, limited energy resources, poor manufacturing and industrial growth and expensive goods in relation to salaries paid.

One of Ncube's wishes is to remove the bond notes which he said are chasing away good money. He suggested focus to be on the U.S. dollar while the nation worked over time to reintroduce a local currency.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced bond coins in 2014 to deal with change problems and followed that up in 2016 with bond notes which were meant to cushion cash challenges.

While the bank rate remains at 1:1 with the U.S. dollar, the reality on the market is different, with the bond note now trading at less than 50 percent of the U.S. dollar in some instances.

New health minister Obadiah Moyo also comes in at a critical time when the nation is experiencing a cholera outbreak which has so far claimed at least 16 people.

Moyo said he would soon be on the ground to establish the extent of the problem and find a way out.

He also talked about "micro-medical insurance schemes centered around health institutions" to deal with issues of access to health as people made minimal monthly contributions to the schemes.

With industry operating at below 50 percent of capacity, and with some companies running with obsolete equipment, new minister of industry and commerce Mangaliso Ndlovu's work is also not a stroll in the park.

He told The Herald newspaper that he planned to introduce a robust industrialization policy and remove bottlenecks stifling investment.

"I am looking forward to coming up with policies that are investor friendly; that are friendly to industry, that a friendly to the economy because our focus is really that even in the manufacturing sector, we need to see capacity utilization going upwards of 50, 60 (percent).

"If you are north of 65 percent then you know that even those companies are profitable," he said.

One of the key enablers to economic growth is energy, but the country is struggling to get the necessary foreign currency to keep supplies open with intermittent shortages of petrol and diesel being experienced.

A revitalized economy where industry and commerce are firing with all cylinders will result in power utility ZESA Holdings failing to meet increased power demands, unless there is a corresponding increase in domestic power generation.

The company last implemented load shedding in late 2015, largely because of subdued industrial activity.

Work is already underway to increase output at Hwange Thermal Power Station to enable the utility to boost output and reduce its power import bill.

Minister of lands, agriculture, water, culture and rural resettlement Perrance Shiri has to deal with outstanding land reform issues, including downsizing farms and taking some from beneficiaries who have more than one farm.

Thousands of people are still on the waiting list for land, while some beneficiaries have failed to prove that they can utilize the land for the benefit of the country.

New transport and infrastructural development minister Joel Matiza has the unenviable task of kickstarting the dualization of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway, which is a major transportation artery in the Southern African Development Community region.

Austrian firm Geiger International was supposed to dualize the Beitbridge-Harare segment at a cost of 984 million U.S. dollars under a 25-year Build-Operate-Transfer model, but the project took more than two years to roll out, prompting government to cancel the tender.

Matiza also has to deal with national airline Air Zimbabwe and rail operator National Railways of Zimbabwe which are both failing to operate profitably.

In mining, some companies are struggling to stay on the surface largely because of foreign currency problems.

Minister Winston Chitando has since said that the government would engage one of the country's biggest gold miners - Metallon Corporation - with a view to finding solutions to its problems which had seen it put hundreds of workers on retrenchment notice.

Ministers in other portfolios have also expressed their zeal to address the various challenges bedeviling the nation, in line with Mnangagwa's pledge to make the country a middle-income economy by 2030.

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