Dealing with the critical issues

DAVOS has come and gone. The great and the powerful have fled the record snows of Switzerland for warmer climes and the back slapping and self-grandmas must stop for another year. If we had a temple devoted to humanity and its self-importance, surely it would be at Davos.

The Chief Priest, without doubt was Donald Trump, arriving in his own 747, flying by helicopter with armed jets overhead and gunships on each side. He made a grand entry and exit, fit for a ruler of Rome in ancient Italy. He was worshipped on every side as he made his way; on the podium, he was effusive about his own achievements and slandered the media at every turn because they insisted on showing his nakedness when it came to the fundamentals of human decency and good governance.

He claimed that his coming to power in the United States had given rise to a record boom in stock prices and had his Democratic opponent won, it would have collapsed by the same amount. Did he not appreciate that by this very claim he was admitting what his regime was really about and its support of the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots”. Under Trump the USA has accelerated the processes that have made America one of the most unequal societies in the world. With every one per cent rise in the stock market, billions are added to the wealth of the top one per cent, many of whom also come to Davos.

While the USA can statistically claim low unemployment (3 per cent), the reality is that perhaps 50 million Americans live below the poverty line and more than 10 per cent are doing casual jobs with few prospects and no security. The American middle class has seen no real improvement in their incomes since the 50’s – over half a century and while they remain the king of the anthill that constitutes the Globe, they are no longer the richest people per capita in the world and their factories struggle to cope with the energy and productivity of factories across the seas.

The struggle being waged in the USA in the past year to seek the right to deport 1,8 million young migrants who came to the States as refugees and the epic conflict in Congress where the Republicans seek to destroy Obama Care which gave all Americans the right to decent health care and brought 30 million people into the system, shows just how the Trump Circus views any who do not belong to their exclusive club. His penchant to fly to Florida every weekend to spend the time at his own luxury resort at no consideration of the cost or the flagrant display that is involved of his personal wealth and use of his new position to boost his own ego are just further examples of his attitude to the majority who are not members of the “Club”.

I am deeply disturbed by the attitude of those who supported Trump in his efforts to win the White House, because he appealed to the very worst traits in American Society and not its best. They celebrate their continued support for him even though his first year has really been a disaster. The World today is less stable, less homogeneous and more unequal than it was when Obama stepped down. The USA has relinquished its place of leadership on global trade to Germany and China, it has relinquished its position as the flagship of democracy and human decency. The century long struggle to secure equal rights, its role as a beacon of light to the homeless and forced refugees. “America First” puts the hungry and the displaced clearly in place as the great unwanted.

The Americans I know and admire (and who can forget those magnificent speeches of Obama) are people who work hard, hold education and innovation as keys to the future, are generous to a fault and care for children. They do not build walls around their properties and they keep their streets clean. They work intelligently and are among the most productive people on earth. They recognise when they have made a wrong turn and can regenerate their society.

We (Zimbabwe) were at Davos along with a powerful South African delegation. I think the team made a good impression, but I am concerned that the kind of message we were putting over was that we were now again open to being exploited by big capital – whether it’s Western or Russian or Chinese. We have to be careful about dropping our pants – we may get raped!

When our team gets back home they have to face a number of harsh realities that need immediate attention if we are going to get back on our feet – diplomatically, economically and socially. These fundamentals are easy to identify, tough to rectify and we need help to do so. I would list the following for the Presidents attention:

The Fiscal Crisis: my main advice would be not to fudge the numbers – our fiscal deficit is simply unsustainable and is our core economic problem. We have to curb expenditure and boost State revenues.

The Cash Crisis: Stop pretending it does not matter. Our people need cash for transactional purposes and we need our own currency. The adoption of other currencies was a short term, stop gap solution to our own fiscal delinquency. We now need our own and should get on with its reintroduction.

The Imposition of Exchange Controls: Let’s recognise that these are simply a means to shift real wealth and income from the productive (export) sector to the consumptive sector. If we allow this to carry on it will destroy our economy and perpetuate the corrupt consumptive society that Mr. Mugabe created.

Lift all Import Restrictions: Import controls put power in the hands of corrupt officials, creates shortages and force up market prices. They foster inefficiencies and lower the quality of all consumer and capital goods. Go back to an open economy and if you want to protect local industry, impose tariffs on targeted goods.

Property Rights and the Rule of Law: If these are not restored and protected with immediate effect, anarchy and lawlessness will prevail. Might is not right and Mr. Mugabe cannot be allowed to retain the land that is rightfully that of Eaglesvale School in Borrowdale. You must give the new farmers secure, marketable title and pay compensation to the original owners.

State Debt: We simply have to restore our reputation as a reliable debtor who pays his bills on time. If we do, our present debt which reflects only 70 per cent of our GDP will not be a burden and we will be able to borrow on international markets at very low interest rates. If we can get money on the same terms as China, we too can rebuild our economy and expand our industries – anything is then possible.

Put our People back to Work: Zimbabwe has the best educated, hardest working and innovative people in Africa. That is why we have a future as a country, but they need to have the opportunity to work and Government needs to get out of the way. Create the right conditions and become a facilitator and not a controller and the people will do the rest.

Return to Democracy: In 1980 we voted and gained our freedom under a majority government. Lets do it again – but do it properly, do not be afraid of the people, they know what is right for them and for all of us.

My final question for our new President is – can you get your act together to find solutions to the above? Can you deliver in time? Remember the Chinese saying – it’s not the color of the cat that matters – does it catch mice? And while you are doing it, do not catch the Davos Virus that seeks the welfare of the few at the expense of the rest of us.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 27th January 2018