Posts tagged as: rwanda

An Open Letter to the Kenyan Politician

By Scheaffer Okore

I know this letter will find you well in your heavily guarded mansion with beautiful lawns that haven’t missed watering even during this drought and water-rationing season.

I cannot even begin to imagine how busy you are drafting fresh deceitful promises for this election year so I wont take much of your time.

Brevity will be my modus operandi just like your memory is when it comes to your deliverables.

As I write this I’m drawing relation from the words of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Subcity’ to the current Kenyan situation with astounding similarity.

Chapman sings of an underground city that no one would like to admit exists: a dejected society where everyday people live off the decay and waste of their fellow men. You need to know and be certain that this underground dwelling people are not going to gentrify their language or actions when it comes to the true nature of things.

HOOLIGANISM

We can’t possibly watch the unlawful way in which the party primaries have been conducted and say nothing. How is it that despite the destruction, bloody fist fights and burning of stuff no political party has taken any tangible action against their members? Have we actually forgotten the unforgettable path our country took in 2007? We cannot and will not be led down this path again we just won’t.

Kenyans need the institutions tasked with ensuring law and order during this primaries to demonstrate that they’re able to enforce these laws. It’s clear that the main political parties engaging in the primaries don’t have the political will to practise the democracy they preach the evidence is all there. Favouritism, hooliganism and sabotage is smeared all over the method in which they choose to conduct themselves and to the underground dwelling Kenyans, it’s alarming. This cannot be a reflection of what we should expect in August we must do better.

RESPECT LAW

It makes you wonder what exactly the cost of winning is and that if someone must win at all cost do they actually deserve to lead. Kenyans don’t need neither do they have to be led by people who have no respect for the law or institutions they represent.

Mr Politician this is why the electorate talks about Fagia Wote not as a trending topic but as a simple strategy acting as a genesis towards a clean house.

Not a single one of you can comprehend the struggles Kenyans endure because of your poor choices, lack of leadership and insatiable hunger for ill-gotten wealth. We are working our hardest not only because it’s a civic requirement but majorly because you Mr. Politician are working thrice as hard to steal from us. Please I beg of you to desist from commenting on burdens you’ve intentionally and continually pilled on our backs.

HIGH COST OF LIVING

Do you at any point wonder how essentials needs like sugar, milk, bread and maize flour have become luxuries in Kenyan households? 1Kg of tomatoes has risen from Sh50 to Ksh80, 1Kg of peas is now Sh200 from Sh60, 1Kg of onions is now Sh80 from Sh40, 1Kg of beans shot to Sh100 from Sh80 and the price of 1Kg rice is now Sh180 from Sh130 all in the span of a month. Almost every single thing in Kenya right now is tremendously expensive some food products have even reduced in quantity whilst their prices continue to rise. We are hungry Mr. Politician while our families are making due, your own families dwell in surplus. This is why we need new leaders of integrity who have the people’s needs in mind. New people who will put the people in power not the individuals they’re aligned to. Our institutions must deliver and they must do it right, there’s so much at stake to repeat past mistakes.

UNEMPLOYMENT

We are jarred that a section of you are seeking a second term based on development projects that only exist virtually not physically while the rest of you are seeking an opportunity to be gently recycled back into office. Honestly if this was a comedy scene, I’d pause and have a good laugh but it’s a real life scenario where the joke is on us. Sometimes I wish your own children who are foreign educated would be degraded to the levels in which the Kenyan graduate is: standing by sidewalks holding placards begging for work. Maybe then you’d begin to address unemployment as a fundamental issue and not just another regrettable vice that Kenya leads in like corruption.

KENYAN PEOPLE

There’s such an open disrespect and disregard towards the citizenry demonstrated by how you misuse our taxes, control and share our opportunities amongst your fellows. Sadly none of you fighting each during the primaries is honestly fighting to serve us or sort out our issues. Most of you are busy securing positions for self-preservation that’s why we find those of you who lie so openly and boldly that it’s the Kenyan people who’ve coaxed you to pursue politics highly insolent.

When and where did you and I talk about your re-election? I find it demeaning that a politician will use the collective that is the Kenyan person in pursuit of their selfishness. Do you realise the title Kenyan people was fought and paid for by blood? The struggle for us to be called Kenyan people was a difficult horrific experience yet you throw this title around like it’s something we picked up on our leisure walk to independence can you get serious? Leave us out of your rhetoric you’re not for us and never will you be let the electorate continue to clean house.

The writer is a Programme Officer Civic Engagement at Siasa Place

Twitter: @scheafferoo

Liberia: Liberia to Send Blood Samples Abroad in Latest Disease Outbreak

Photo: Liberian Observer

Liberian Health Minister Bernice Dahn

By Lennart Dodoo

Monrovia — Liberia does not have the capacity to diagnose the latest disease outbreak which has already killed at least 11 persons in Sinoe County.

Nine infected persons are undergoing treatment. There are fears that the number may rise.

The country’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh told reporters Friday that the Health Ministry is considering sending blood samples broad for further testing.

According to Dr. Kateh, initial tests conducted to determine Ebola proved negative. However, the current laboratory is not equipped to determine food poison, which many suspect to be the cause of the sudden outbreak.

Those infected with the “strange” disease showed symptoms of severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and headaches

Doctors suspect that the disease can be spread through body contacts.

Residents of the county, according to reports, have begun taking precautionary measures introduced during the Ebola outbreak.

Sinoe County is one of few counties which were not affected by the Ebola Virus Disease that struck the country in 2014.

More on This

Liberia to Send Blood Samples Abroad in ‘Mysterious Deaths’ Case


Mysterious Deaths ‘Not From Ebola’Strange Disease Outbreak in Sinoe County – Nine Persons Already DeadSeven Die From ‘Strange’ Sickness in Sinoe

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had sent rapid response teams to the area to assist Liberian health officials with technical and logistical support.The teams were investigating reports linking the disease to attendance at the funeral of a religious leader in Sinoe County.”The investigation teams will try to find if this could be in relation to the consumption of same food and drinks and if there is an environmental exposure to some chemicals or bacteria,” the WHO said in a statement.According to reports, seven of the deaths were linked to the death of an 11-year-old who died on Sunday, April 23, 2017.She died after showing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and mental confusion.She was immediately taken to F.J. Grante Hospital where she reportedly died within one hour after she was admitted into the emergency room.She reportedly attended the funeral ceremony of a religious leader on Saturday, April 23, in Greenville.The religious leader is said to have died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. He was diagnosed of high blood pressure.On Monday, April 24, another patient from Down Town Community who also attended the funeral of the religious leader presented symptoms of head ache, skin itching and body pain. He was admitted the same night at the F.J. Grant Hospital died by 2:00 A.M. Monday morning.Another lady from Red Hill community who also attended the same funeral presented symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. She died upon arrival at the Grant Hospital.A local journalist in the county described the situation as “tragic” and said it has instilled fears in many of the inhabitants of the county.Rep. Jefferson Kanmoh (APD- District #3 Sinoe County) also described the outbreak as “very disturbing and a source for serious concern”.”There is panic in the county right now for many reasons.””Many recall our recent past where Ebola killed a good number of our citizens and with the latest where there are many deaths in succession shows serious reason for panic and concern.”We want to encourage authorities at the Health Ministry to work fast to give answers to our people, while we appeal to our people to keep calm and await results of the test.”All that we are hearing right now are speculations; so we ask people to maintain their peace,” he said.

Nigeria: 19 Ships Discharging Petroleum Products, Other Commodities in Lagos

Nineteen ships are discharging petroleum products and other commodities at Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said on Friday.

NPA explained that the ships were discharging buck wheat, petrol, empty containers, general cargo, yellow maize, containers, aviation fuel, gypsum, soya beans and frozen fish.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 33 other ships laden with petroleum products, food items and other goods are also expected to arrive in Lagos ports between April 28 and May 19.

NPA said that the expected ships would bring base oil, general cargo, containers, bulk gas, frozen fish, bulk gypsum, bulk sugar, bulk corn and petrol.

NAN reports that 33 ships were expected on April 24; 37 on April 25; 35 on April 26 and 34 ships on April 27.

Eight ships had earlier arrived at the ports with bulk fertiliser, aviation fuel, ethanol and petrol.

Nigeria

There’s No Boko Haram Resurgence, Nigerian Military Assures

Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, briefing Newsmen during a Monthly News Conference on Defence and… Read more »

Nigeria: Customs Intercepts N4 Million Worth Foreign Rice in Jigawa

By Yusha’u A. Ibrahim

Kano — The Kano/Jigawa states’ Command of the Nigerian Customs Service has intercepted foreign rice worth N4, 167,825.45 in Jigawa state.

Briefing the newsmen on the seizure yesterday, the Command’s Comptroller, Mr Abutu Mathais Onoja, said a trailer loaded with the rice was impounded by the service at Shuwarin village in Kiyawa local goverment of Jigawa state.

Onoja, however, said nobody was arrested in connection with the intercepted goods.

He said the driver and conductor of the trailer abandoned the vehicle and ran away after they were ordered to disembark from the vehicle to witness a search on the goods they were carrying.

He said the smugglers covered the rice with some bags of Nigerian Sugar, used tyers and gallons of paints among other items.

“We have realized that the smugglers have nowadays changed tactics in their quest to smuggle foreign goods into the country, but we will continue to track them and bring them to justice,” he assured.

He, however, apealed to the headquarters of the service to look into the problem of the command’s warehouse which he said was filled up with seized goods.

Onoja said the command had donated 420 bags of rice to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) last year and that presently a total of 6, 143 bags of rice are being kept in the warehouse.

Nigeria

There’s No Boko Haram Resurgence, Nigerian Military Assures

Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, briefing Newsmen during a Monthly News Conference on Defence and… Read more »

Liberia: Nocal Donates U.S.$100K to Mental Health Research Institution

By Henry Karmo

Monrovia — The National Oil Company has presented a check of US$100,000 to the Liberia Center for Outcome Research in Mental Health (LICORMH) as support to government, in an effort to reduce drug addiction and substance use disorder in Liberia.

The money has been provided in partnership with TGS NOPEC’s an oil exploration company exploring Liberia for oil in commercial quantity.

The US$100K project will be implemented in Montserrado and Margibi Counties. According to NOCAL the objectives of the project is among many things to address the rising rates of addiction in Liberia through provider capacity development.

The project aims to train a cadre of addiction specialist in Liberia, build a multi-specialty center for mental health disorders and addiction that includes short-term crisis stabilization and treatment, and preventing the primary and secondary substance use disorders and addiction among adolescents and young adults.

The rationale of the project according Mr. Ambulah Mamey NOCAL’s Public education officer is to develop a short term plan to address issues of substance use disorders in Liberia.

He said currently there is no specialized center in Liberia to offer complete standardized treatment for persons with substance use disorders (PSUD).

Mr. Mamey believes Liberia’s weak law enforcement capacity, porous border control and proximity to major drugs transit routes contributes to an uptick in drug trafficking to and through Liberia.

“The number of addicts and people with substance use disorder in Liberia keep increasing.”

“There is very limited scientific and evidence based approach to treatment, care and reduction and prevention,” he said.

Mr. Mamey claims that repeated efforts by the Liberian National police to raid addicts and drugs user off the streets has failed to adequately address the problem because the approach is wrong.

“The lack of specialized center in Liberia that offers evidence-based standardized treatment for people with addiction problems has been another major challenge,” he added.

Liberia has one psychiatric hospital that provides treatment to persons with mental health and substance use disorder, and he believes that center has limited accommodation.

“The project is linked to the government of Liberia’s National Mental Health Policy and strategic plan which calls for the construction of wellness units in the 15 counties.

Under this project one wellness unit will be constructed and furnished,” he added.

The project provides short-term crisis stabilization and treatment for people with mental illness and will also train 10 addiction specialists to international standard, thus increasing the number of the internationally certified addiction specialist in country.

Drugs addicts (Zogos or Zogese) as they are commonly called occupy a unique place in Liberian history and in our contemporary national life.

The legacy of the civil war and the discrimination and stigma that they continue to face is a stark reminder of their lowly social and economic standing in Liberian society.

Clearly, numerous studies have continued to link mental health problems and the risk of suicide as well as alcohol and drug use disorders.

In the case of Zogos, it is fair to say that no such evidence exist of their mental illness, although their possible drug use and alcohol abuse and the linkages to mental health issues is inferred.

This does not excuse people in the general Liberian population who themselves are at risk of suicide given the pervasive use of illicit substances in the society, and the unresolved traumas from the war and other incidents of violence and communal deaths.

But here, the focus is on Zogos given that they are understudied and their lowly socioeconomic status, which explains the gross neglect that they face.

The death of Zogos and Zogese in Greater Monrovia and Harbel respectively, possibly as a result of suicide could mean that the society has a looming epidemic on its hands.

The time has come for the society to ask: Why are many Zogos dying from a possible suicidal fate?

Liberia: Liberian Leader Lauds Global Fund Support to Health Sector

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lauded the Global Fund active support to the Liberian health sector through its malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS program.

She also praised the partnership between Liberia and the Global Fund that has brought about immense impact on the nation’s population.

President Sirleaf , however, called for increased support that would target rural health programs intended to enhance access healthcare.

The Liberian Chief Executive was speaking when she received in audience the Chief Executive Officer of Global Fund, Dr. Mark Dybul, at her office in Monrovia.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader thanked Dr. Dybul of Global Fund for his organization’s support to Liberia during a critical moment in our history.

Earlier, Dr. Dybul thanked President Sirleaf for the opportunity, her extraordinary support and strong voice for the work of Global Fund.

He described President Sirleaf as an advocate and champion of the aspirations of Global Fund and noted that the level collaboration in the health sector remains on course and praised Liberia for its robust Post-Ebola Resilient Healthcare Program.

Dybul acknowledged the need for support to the roads to health agenda of the government during discussions with the Ministry of Public Works officials aimed at addressing huge challenges that occasion the rainy season especially in rural parts of the country.

He expressed the need to make health services available to all sectors of the population in spite of the season.

Dr. Dybul assured that Global Fund was willing to partner with other actors, including the World Bank to critically respond to demanding infrastructure issues that will enable essential health, education and economic opportunities become accessible.

On Global Fund overall programme implementation towards its Liberia Program, Dr. Dybul noted that tremendous progress has and continues to be made in those critical facets of interventions.

Liberia

Gambia’s Barrow Meets Sirleaf

Liberia’s President and Chair of regional bloc ECOWAS Mrs. Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf has received the Gambia’s President… Read more »

Gambia: Agriculture Project Worth Over D.5 Million Inaugurated in Foni Sintet

By Sheriff Barry

An agricultural project worth D714,375 (seven hundred and fourteen thousand three hundred and seventy five dalasis), inaugurated in Sintet village in the Foni Jarrol district, sponsored by Engelhart on Saturday. The CEO and founder of Fonteris Company in Germany who is a member of Socialis for The Gambia was present.

The inauguration came as several members of the Socialis for The Gambia are in the country to visit some of their project sites. Their first port of call was Sannehmentereng Kindergarten and Lower Basic School in Brufut. This school has received unprecedented support, including free education, uniforms, scholarship, a skills centre, infrastructure and other amenities worth millions of Dalasis.

The Socialis for The Gambia is a German charitable organization based in The Gambia. The organization has been instrumental in providing support in education and agriculture at both Sannehmentereng Kindergarten and Lower Basic School in Brufut and the community of Sinteh in Foni Jarrol District since its inception. The relationship between the organization and the community of Sinteh was started in 2010 by Lamin Sowe, a native of the village who has lived in Germany for many years.

In his inaugural speech, Hatab Beyai, the coordinator of Socialis for The Gambia, spoke of the importance of the project, describing it as a milestone achievement not only for the people of the area, but for the country as a whole. “With the dedication and hard work of all members of the association the Sinteh Skill Centre was officially opened in providing free skills training for the youth of the area.”

He went on to add that, it is envisaged that providing knowledge and training for citizens is an empowerment tool for the sustainable development of their livelihood. Socialis for The Gambia has partnered with the government of The Gambia for the past couple of years in complementing the efforts of the government in the provision of free education for all, regardless of sex or tribe and, “today we are proud to inform the gathering that we are providing free education to over 600 students our Lower Basic School in Burufut, 45 students at our skills centre in Brufut and over 40 students in our skills centre in Sintet.”

He finally, thanked the members of Socialis for The Gambia for their unflinching support and also acknowledged the contribution of other people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the project came to fruition. Among those he thanked was Lamin Sowe, a native of Sintet and Executive member of Socialis for The Gambia, Samba Sowe coordinator Sintet project, the contractor, the seamstress and students of Sintet Skill Centre and the community of Sintet village.

For his part, Engelhart, the CEO and founder of Fonteris Company in Germany, who is the main sponsor of the Agricultural project, said the idea of the project came when he was invited to go to Kenya by a group of German friends who has established meaningful agricultural projects in Kenya. He stated that those projectshave been exporting produce to Germany.

This, he said, inspired him to start a similar project in The Gambia so that in the near future it can also bring success and development to the inhabitants of the area. “In my opinion this was a reasonable project, this is why I founded this through Socialis for The Gambia. This project is intended as ‘help for self help’. The only way to move forward is through sustainable help that keeps on working after we are gone. If we all work together to help you and you help yourself; success will be achieved for the betterment of all and sundry. I will continue to work with you and give support where necessary to achieve the desired goal,” he said.

He thanked the members of the Socialis for Ther Gambia and all those who contributed in one way or the other for making it a successful project.

Samba Sowe, the coordinator of project, underscored the significance of the project saying the organization built a skills training centre for the community which is now training the youth and women in tailoring. The vision of the centre, he added, is to ensure that the youth and women are involved in the development agenda of the country and that they be given the support they need to build their capacity to be responsible citizens.

He added that its mission is to provide skills training for the rural youth and women in the areas of tailoring and agriculture so as to help job-creators who will generate income and live independent lives.

The two newly constructed agricultural buildings are to train farmers in modern farming techniques and agro-based processing to drive and empower the youth of the area to nurture agriculture and discourage going the back way to Europe. The building contains offices, classrooms, workshops and a proposed storage (cooling) room for the operation of the centre.

He thanked both the philanthropists for their unflinching support and for their vision and mission to transform the lives of the needy communities.

A host of other speakers, included Karin Neumuller, the Co-president of Socialis for The Gambia and Josef Kiener; one of the visiting members of the Socialis for The Gambia. All were overwhelmed by the performance and achievement of the organization over the years and they assured their continued support for the project.

Zimbabwe: Setback for Beitbridge-Chirundu Dualisation

By Tendai Makaripe

GOVERNMENT has put brakes on the US$3 billion Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu dualisation project, despite the recent hype around what could be Zimbabwe’s biggest infrastructure project since independence in 1980.

The dualisation project was supposed to be launched by President Robert Mugabe last month, with construction work starting this month.

But Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Joram Gumbo, said this week that government was no longer in a hurry to start the project.

“The project cannot be rushed,” Gumbo told the Financial Gazette. “A project of this magnitude involves a lot of complex processes that cannot be completed overnight.”

Asked why he was backtracking from government’s earlier commitment, Gumbo said there were many bureaucratic processes involving different arms of government which were stalling the project.

“For example, some of the processes involve the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, an institution with its own way of doing things. We also need to open bank accounts at the same time giving ear to our financial advisors on the proper route to take,” he said.

Asked to explain why the project was not commissioned by President Mugabe last month as he had indicated in February, Gumbo said: “I will have to wait and hear from my boss on when he will commission the project. What I can tell you is that it will take place near Mvuma.”

Apparently, it is now nearly 10 months since government announced that it had found an investor, who would pour at least US$2,7 billion into the project.

Last year, government entered into an agreement with a Chinese contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC), to do the work, which would be financed by Austrian firm, Geiger International (Geiger) on a 25-year Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model. The road continues to wear at a rapid pace, battered by elements. The heavy rains which poured on the country this year left most road infrastructure heavily damaged. The treacherous highway, whose poor state has been blamed for fatal road traffic accidents, is a critical artery in the southern African region.

The latest development is a strange turn of events, considering that the ruling ZANU-PF party is banking on the project to show its commitment to turn around the economy and create jobs promised during the 2013 elections, in which it won a landslide victory against the opposition parties.

There is speculation the ZANU-PF administration could be deliberately delaying the project in order to launch it close to elections, which are slated for next year. The ruling party is already gearing for what promises to be a crunch general election.

ZANU-PF is known for turning national projects into campaign platforms. Already, reports elsewhere in this newspaper suggest that over 700 people in Karoi, Mashonaland West, have registered for jobs on the stretch of the highway project that pass through the district.

With the dualisation of the highway expected to create thousands of jobs, it comes in handy for the party which has received brickbats for failing to deliver the 2,2 million jobs it promised ahead of the 2013 general elections.

Watchers have said the project could be ZANU-PF’s perfect opportunity to appease the agitated populace as the plebiscite draws closer.

But Gumbo denied this was the case.

“That is mere speculation; there is no political involvement whatsoever. This is purely a technical matter,” he said, explaining the current development.

The highway has been delayed for years owing to many factors, among them a nasty legal wrangle involving government and ZimHighways — a consortium of 14 construction firms that included Murray & Roberts Zimbabwe (now Masimba Holdings), Costain Africa (now ZCL Holdings, which is under judicial management), Kuchi Building Construction, Tarcon, Bitumen Construction Services (Bitcon), Joina Development Company and Southland Engineers — which had won the tender for the 900km highway at a cost of US$883 million.

Fed up by the delays, government sought to terminate the contract, arguing that the consortium lacked the financial wherewithal to do the work. ZimHighways claimed that the delays were caused by senior government officials who demanded bribes to facilitate the project.

The battle ended two years ago when government sweet-talked the consortium into withdrawing the case and opt for an out of court settlement under which it would be granted 40 percent of a stake on the road project.

CHEC has also had its own fair share of controversy.

It is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), which in 2011 courted controversy in Uganda and several other countries for alleged shoddy deals.

CCCC was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices by its predecessor, China Road and Bridge Corporation, in 2009.

But government defended its decision to award it the tender, arguing that that it was CCCC, and not CHEC, that was blacklisted.

The highway is Zimbabwe’s busiest road, carrying nearly 5 000 vehicles per day.

It is not only part of the trunk network in Zimbabwe, but also a major component of the north-south traffic corridor directly linking Harare and Pretoria, and providing landlocked Zambia with access to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.

Zimbabwe: Government Admits ‘Printing’ Money

By Phillimon Mhlanga

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s embattled administration has for the first time admitted printing money in the form of a virtual currency through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), acknowledging this cannot be backed by United States dollar bank notes imported by local banks, the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) can report.

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, made the disclosures in Parliament. He said: “Government funds its employees’ salary accounts through electronic transfers over the Real Time Gross Settlement platform. On the contrary, employees would want to obtain physical cash from the banks. This misalignment is the greatest cause of queues at banks for cash as both the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and banks would be required to withdraw foreign exchange from their nostro accounts to meet local cash demand.”

Nostro accounts are accounts held by local banks with offshore financial institutions. They are used predominantly to settle international obligations, including import of goods. Banks have used their nostro accounts to import US dollar bank notes but these have always been used to support real US dollar bank balances for local deposits.

Government had always been denying that it has been creating or printing its own money to pay wages and salaries for its strong workforce of more than 300 000. The salary bill is gobbling more than 90 percent of revenue, leaving very little for infrastructure development.

The printing of money through the RTGS platform can only be backed by local currency, rather than foreign currency which has to be earned through exports of other foreign currency receipts. It would therefore appear the introduction of bond notes, despite public protestations, was meant primarily to fund the virtual currency, which has been described by some analysts as phantom money.

The reason for government resorting to creation of money in the domestic economy has largely been its huge budget deficits, which it started incurring following the collapse of the inclusive government in 2013.

During the inclusive government, then finance minister, Tendai Biti, insisted that government would only spend what it collected in the form of revenue under his famous “we eat what we gather” policy.

He managed to keep government expenditure under check, despite protestations from colleagues, ensuring stability in the economy.

But since the collapse of the inclusive government, the budget deficit problem, which largely funded recurrent expenditure, emerged. In fact, the size of the civil service suddenly shot up, increasing the salary and wage bill.

Although Chinamasa has tried to curb this cost by reducing the size of the civil service through retrenchments, he has faced opposition from Cabinet colleagues.

Chinamasa has indicated that government employment costs are currently at over 93 percent of tax revenue. When government’s debt of over 40 percent of tax revenue is added to this cost, government expenditure far outstrips revenue.

“This shows that we are living beyond our means through borrowing from the market by way of Treasury Bills that translate into government overdraft at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on maturity,” Chinamasa said.

There is indeed an increasing risk that the country may now be drifting towards an inflationary crisis.

Zimbabwe’s inflation was in deflation since October 2014, but since last year, especially after introduction of bond notes, there has been a significant increase in basic food prices.

Annual inflation rate went into positive territory for the first time in over two years in February this year, gaining 0,71 percentage points on the January 2017 rate of -0,7 percent to 0,6 percent.

It went up to 0,21 percent in March, sparking fears among economists of a return to the previous hyperinflationary period that saw inflation reaching a peak of 231 million percent in August 2008.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that the country’s inflation is likely to hit three percent this year and 6,6 percent next year. Given the situation on the ground, this could be a generous assessment from the IMF because it could get worse.

Economists told C&M that the situation is likely to worsen because of the impending elections set for next year.

Prosper Chitambara, an economist with Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said: “The economy is in a roller coaster. It’s in a crisis which will require bold structural reforms. Government knows what’s needed to be done but the will and commitment does not exist.”

He said there were foreign currency leakages because hard cash was going out of the country and not coming back.

“Businesses that are looking to receive money from outside the country are opening accounts outside the country because they have no confidence in government policies and the banking system. With elections coming up next year, we are going to see acceleration of leakages. Inflation, it’s a reflection of bond notes or it pushes inflation factors. In fact, there is a lot of temptation to print more bond notes outside the US$200 million threshold,” he said.

He was referring to the announced $200 million limit in bond notes by the central bank, whose basis is an alleged US$200 facility from the African Export and Import Bank to support exports.

The liquidity squeeze in the country has left many companies unable to pay foreign suppliers, driving many out of business.

According to the IMF, Zimbabwe’s economy is likely to grow by two percent this year.

In March this year, government reviewed Zimbabwe’s economic growth projection from 1,7 percent announced in the 2017 National Budget to 3,7 percent, on the back of a good agricultural season and firming metal prices.

An independent economist, Tinashe Masunda, said: “Zimbabwe has run out of foreign currency resulting in the country completely losing the ability to pay for imports. This means that productivity will continue to suffer as companies fail to access vital inputs because there’s no foreign currency to pay for them. As long as government continues to do things that discourage both local and foreign investment into the productive sector, the situation can only get worse.”

The country abandoned the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 and adopted a multi-currency regime to escape hyperinflation.

But the foreign currency has been disappearing from the financial market, prompting the central bank to introduce bond notes last year. However, the bond notes appear to be disappearing from the banking system as well.

The severe cash crisis has resulted in banks limiting the amount of cash depositors can withdraw. Most banks have also suspended dispensing money through automated teller machines. In some cases, depositors spend days in bank queues but fail to access cash.

The situation is likely to persist until government urgently fixes the country’s economic fundamentals.

Chinamasa told Parliament that one of the reasons for the shortage of bank notes was that businesses were not banking cash. This, he said, has resulted in long queues for cash at banks.

“This indiscipline is counter-productive and cannot continue to be tolerated. Money is like blood, it needs to circulate for the economy to survive. Money should be circulating in order to deal with queues at banks,” said Chinamasa.

“To date, three traders have been hauled before the courts for not banking their sales proceeds in line with the laws of the country from as far back as June 2016. They have all pleaded guilty to the offence and they now await their sentences,” he said.

Chinamasa implored depositors to make use of plastic money. This, inevitably, would ensure that there is no pressure for the RBZ to print more bond notes to support cash it is creating through the RTGS.

He said: “The factors underpinning cash challenges are beyond banks. Banks find themselves in a difficult position where they are compelled to ration cash withdrawals in order to meet their customers’ demands. Banks have therefore continued to explore pragmatic measures to meet their customers’ demand for cash.

“Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, is advocating for the use of plastic money in order to ameliorate the mismatch or gap between electronic salary transfers and the demand for cash from banks. Embracing plastic money preserves foreign exchange in the nostro accounts for use for foreign payments whilst at the same time mitigating against non-banking of cash by traders.

Liberia: High Tariffs Affecting Movement of Goods At Liberia-Guinea Border

By Ishmael F. Menkor

Slow movement of goods and services is being reported at one of Liberia’s leading revenue-generating ports of entry, the border with Guinea at Ganta, Nimba County.

The movement of goods and services has reportedly been very slow since the beginning of the year, which a lot of business travelers say is a result of the high tariff imposed by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

Some of the businesspeople interviewed told the Daily Observer that the sharp increase in tariff by the government of Liberia is hampering trade.

“Before we were paying 15% on rubber dishes, but the tariff has gone up to 20% flat; and it is very hard to make profit from it,” said a trader identified only as Serena.

“The tariff on soap used to be determined by the quantity in kilograms, but now it is strictly 20% of what you purchase,” said another woman.

The border area has since been very quiet, according to traders, with some customs officers passing the time playing games on their computers and others seen doing extracurricular activities to keep busy.

Mondays and Thursdays are reportedly the busiest days at the border, when traders travel to the nearby Guinean towns of N’zérékoré and Djéké. But according to the businesspeople this paper spoke to, that is no longer the case.

The tariff on agricultural products, including cattle, livestock, groundnuts and pepper, among others, has also increased, according to a customs agent who did not want to be identified.

He said tariff on vehicles has been increased to 10% from 17%, and said people are not crossing with goods since the increase.

He named other tariffs to include the Custom Usual Fees (CUF), 1.5%; Government Services Tax (GST), 10%; and 0.5% ECOWAS tax on ECOWAS goods.

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