The government’s curious decision to introduce shops within camps to sell subsidised goods to members of the security forces was another emphatic message that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s reform agenda has gone off the rails.
Zimbabweans are enduring one of the worst economic crises in a decade characterised by acute shortages of fuel, electricity, foreign currency and basic goods like maize meal as well as cooking oil.
The government has been in a firefighting mode since 2018 when Ncube unveiled austerity measures, which he promised would stop the economy from bleeding further.
A swift economic revival was promised but experts estimate that Zimbabwe’s year-on-year inflation was as high as 525% in December last year.
On the other hand, the government has been struggling to keep pace with the skyrocketing inflation with salaries of its employees now a pittance.
On Wednesday the government announced that it would establish garrison shops to help ease the conditions for the security forces with a facility that would enable soldiers to buy cheaper goods.
The garrison shops were preceded by government’s introduction of a coupon system for vulnerable groups to buy subsidised mealie meal to try and cushion citizens from the ever-increasing prices of food.
Ncube vigorously defended the coupon system as much as he did with the garrison shops without admitting that his policies are failing the ordinary Zimbabwean, but the writing is clearly on the wall.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last Wednesday was clear in its assessment that Zimbabwe’s economic reform agenda was off-track and that the situation was bound to get worse in view of the prolonged drought and the country’s international isolation.
Policy inconsistency was highlighted by the IMF team that was in the country last month as part of the Bretton Woods institution’s staff-monitored programme.
It was also predicted that Zimbabwe’s economic growth would remain flat this year due to the failed policies and the drought.
It is high time that the government took stock of the way these economic policies are being rolled out and start considering a serious re-think because it cannot keep doing the same things and expecting different results.
Policy interventions meant to cushion vulnerable groups against the negative impact of austerity measures such as subsidies have so far proven to be disastrous.
The garrison shops, whose real objective could be to pacify the military, whose members like the rest of the citizens is bearing the brunt of the austerity measures, will certainly serve no long-term purpose in bringing Zimbabwe’s economic reforms back on track.