Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti of the People’s Democratic Party said that the government’s 4.5 percent growth prediction was wildly optimistic and called for more severe cuts to government expenditure. His alternative to the “modicum of economic reform” by the government is a no deficit budget, and job cuts that will make the 3 700 youth officers retrenched seem “just but a drop in an ocean considering the fact that the government employs around 550 000 workers.”
He called for the size of the civil service to be cut by half “in a phased period of three years.” The attracting of Foreign Direct Investment also required “the total repealing of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act,” including in the extraction industries.
The opposition pitch has been made directly to Washington. In mid-December, MDC Alliance presidential candidate Tsvangirai dispatched a three-member international delegation made up of MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa, MDC president Welshman Ncube and Biti, to Europe and to visit President Donald Trump’s offices.
In a Senate Debate December 12, Biti urged the US to maintain sanctions and other punitive measures on ZANU PF until after the 2018 general elections have been proved “free and fair”. Then the “international community” could “assist us” in engaging with “the World Bank, the IMF and the Paris Club of lenders.”
This conflict between rival bourgeois factions is being played out at the expense of the working class, in a country where 70 percent of the population live on less than $5 per day, and many earn substantially less.
Tsvangirai began his career as leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which is pro-MDC. Current ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa, warned in the Financial Gazette that only five percent of workers are in the formal economy. (The overwhelming majority work in the informal economy and are either underemployed, self-employed or unemployed and reliant on subsistence farming.)
“Some 120 000 people are working without pay and the few that are earning salaries are getting a fraction of their salaries, in most cases a third. Those who are earning salaries are earning a fraction of the poverty datum line; maybe a third,” he said.
The ZCTU “was staunchly against any International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank imposed reforms,” he added. But his only concrete demand was for a role in governmental structures for the trade unions in imposing the economic measures required. He urged everyone “to sit down as Zimbabweans and agree on a planned economic development,” which meant empowering “trade unions who play a major redistributive role of getting the much-needed resources even for the government from successful businesses…”
By Chris Marsden. This article was first published on the World Socialist Web Site