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News Perspectives: Zim’s ‘economic hit men’ – NewsDay

IT is almost trite to say that Zimbabwe has been stuck in economic turmoil since the dawn of the current century.

The standard explanation for this sorry state of affairs largely revolves around factors, such as droughts, cyclones, floods, Covid-19 pandemic, sanctions/restrictive measures, and more recently, the disruptions of the global supply chains caused by the Kremlin-Ukraine war.

Although this view is widely shared, it only tells half of the story about Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties.

The other half, which is hardly acknowledged, is that the country is under siege from its own version of John Perkins’ “Economic Hit Men”.

In his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 2004, Perkins gave a detailed account of how global South economies have been pillaged and destroyed by “Economic Hit Men” that extract trillions of dollars from the poor countries using both licit and illicit circuits routing them to the Euro-Western countries.

The notion of “Economic Hit Men” is ostensibly deployed in this think-piece in an attempt to unpack the bleeding of Zimbabwe’s economy beyond the conventional explanation.

Zimbabwe’s political elite have incubated their own version of “Economic Hit Men” who are responsible for the economic mess that the country finds itself in.

This group is constitutive of top politicians, militicians, senior civil servants, politically exposed persons, and high net worth individuals who work as clients of multinational corporations and transnational capitalist class that operate in offshore financial centres. 

Additionally, Zimbabwe’s “Economic Hit Men” also work in cahoots with a network of shell companies, management consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, insurance companies, and audit companies, as well as a chain of banks that facilitate the actual flow of the ‘dirt money’ for ‘dry cleaning’ safe keeping and sometimes for ‘round tripping’ purposes in secrecy jurisdictions such as Dubai, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Bermuda, and Bahamas, among others.

In 2016, Panama Papers as well as some subsequent Paradise and Swiss Leaks pulled the curtain back a bit on the operations of Zimbabwe’s “Economic Hit Men” that are involved in offshoring practices.

Their names have been withheld in this think-piece to avoid reducing this discussion into a shouting match about personalities instead of steering an informed debate about institutions and systems that have kept Zimbabweans riding on the Hedonic Treadmill-sweating but going nowhere.

What is worrying though is that Zimbabwe’s own version of “Economic Hit Men” consists of those who are supposed to be the stewards of the country’s wealth.

In other words, those that are ‘responsibilised’ by law to curb illicit financial flows are themselves chief conveyor belts of capital flight from the country to secrecy jurisdictions, thereby afflicting deep economic pain on the ordinary citizens.

For the avoidance of any doubt, capital flight here denotes the movement of assets or money out of the country. This can be a completely legal process as when foreign investors decide to withdraw capital from a country as a result of an event of political or economic significance.

However, the focus here is on both, the morally unacceptable practices, such as tax dodging, aggressive tax planning, mispricing, and tax avoidance as well as the illicit financial flows including tax evasion, embezzlement, and illicit trade among others.

Both press reports and academic researchers have been evidencing that large amounts of financial capital have exited Zimbabwe either with tacit approval or acquiescence of monetary and fiscal authorities.

Apparently, these authorities control the entire infrastructure that is required to safeguard national wealth including the security apparatuses, and legal instruments that could puncture the ecologies of illicit financial flows if there was a political will to do so.

And yet, the relevant authorities often turn a blind eye and even use their privileged positions to enable their business associates and foreign investor allies to evade detection, prosecution, litigation, fines, and charges that should be levied against the offenders.

Moreover, they adopt some selective policies such as tax incentives for their favoured foreign investors especially in the extractive industries, fuel sector, and Special Economic Zones among others in return of kickbacks and financial support for power retention purposes.

While Zimbabwe is currently enmeshed in multifaceted crises including poverty, unemployment and inequality, the political elite and their business associates have chosen to keep their ill-gotten wealth in offshore financial centres in order to protect it from forfeiture in the event of change of government.

It is strange that some of the loot from Zimbabwe is hidden in some offshore financial centres in the global North, which is routinely described as the centre of the neo-imperialism.

With this in mind, it is therefore not unreasonable for anyone to conclude that Zimbabwe’s political elite are the enablers and beneficiaries of financial imperialism that they purport to be fighting against. 

On the other side of the ledger, one of the main external beneficiaries of illicit financial flows from Zimbabwe is China, which gets an average of 62% of capital outflows in the form trade mispricing.

This flies on the face of Sino-Zimbabwe relations that are touted as based on the ‘win-win’ doctrine.  In practical terms this ‘win-win’ mantra simply means a net gain for both China and Zimbabwe’s “Economic Hit Men” but a gross loss for the generality of Zimbabweans.

From the table above, it can be noted that between 2009 and 2018 the country lost approximately US$11.52 billion in trade related capital flight (i.e.US$6, 26 + US$5, 256) most of which went to China as well as South Africa, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates enroute to secrecy jurisdictions.

This amount was enough to clear almost all the country external debt of US$13.5 billion as per 2022 official statistics.

Hypothetically, if the bleeding of Zimbabwe could be stymied, the country will be able to service its debts and adequately pay its civil servants in hard currency as well as reset the economy on a recovery trajectory. However, the ongoing haemorrhaging of Zimbabwe’s wealth means that the country remains in economic turmoil. To end this economic tailspin, Zimbabweans should collectively adopt the same kind of attitude, energy, and determination they marshalled when they fought and defeated colonialism over 40 years ago.

This fight against financial imperialism and the decapitalisation of the economy should not be reduced political theatralisation but should be launched as a non-partisan project for the common good. The how part of it is left for the reader to figure out.

Moyo is the director of the Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe. He is an expert in African Agency, Global Finance and  Emerging Markets and Developing Economies . These weekly New Perspectives articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent and co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe (ICSAZ). Email-kadenge.zes@gmail.com and mobile No. +263 772 382 852.

 

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Biden: Willing to Talk to Putin About Ending War in Ukraine – VOA Zimbabwe

WHITE HOUSE AND WASHINGTON —

U.S. President Joe Biden raised the possibility Thursday of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate an end to Moscow’s war against Ukraine but said he had yet to see any willingness on Putin’s part to halt his 10-month invasion.

“I’m prepared to talk to Putin but only in consultation with NATO allies,” Biden said at a White House news conference after holding several hours of private talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about Ukraine and other issues. “I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin. I’m not going to do it on my own.”

“There’s one way for this war to end, Putin to pull out of Ukraine,” Biden said. “It’s sick what he’s doing. If he’s looking for a way to end the war, he hasn’t done that.”

Macron said he was confident the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine with more military and humanitarian assistance.

“It’s about our values,” the French leader said. “Having the U.S. support Ukraine … is very important.”

Biden said the U.S. “will never ask Ukraine to compromise” to end the war without the consent of the Kyiv government.

Earlier, before their private discussions, Biden said as he welcomed Macron for the first state visit of a foreign leader during his presidency, “France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s ambition.”

“The alliance between our two nations remains essential for our defense,” Biden said. “The U.S. could not ask for a better partner than France.” He described France as “our oldest ally and unwavering partner in freedom’s cause.”

Macron, speaking on a sunny but chilly morning in Washington, said, “As war returns to European soil with Russian aggression against Ukraine, and in light of the multiple crises facing our nations and societies, we need to become brothers-in-arms once more.”

He said Washington and Paris “share the same faith in freedom and democratic values.”

While agreeing on their determination to support Ukraine, Macron expressed sharp concerns to Biden about the U.S. leader’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, approved by Congress earlier this year that provides billions of dollars to support the U.S. clean energy industry, and a separate measure that bolsters U.S. semiconductor manufacturers.

Macron told congressional leaders Wednesday that the measure was “super aggressive” toward European companies.

“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue, but you will increase my problem,” he said, noting that France makes “exactly the same products as you.”

At the news conference, Biden said the legislation was “never intended to exclude” European trading partners. “We’re back in business,” he said of U.S. economic advances. “Europe is back in business.”

Macron said, “France wants the same new manufacturing jobs.”

Biden acknowledged that some aspects of the legislation might need to be tweaked, as he put it, and said he was confident that U.S. and European negotiators could work out differences so both the U.S. and European economies can prosper.

The pomp and circumstance of a White House state visit for a foreign leader was on full display, with Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, and then watching as a band in colonial uniforms played the national anthems of both countries. A 21-gun salute for Macron’s visit rang out.

The two leaders and their wives waved from the White House balcony before Biden and Macron went inside for substantive talks. A state dinner was planned for the evening.

The Bidens took the Macrons to Fiola Mare, an upscale Italian seafood restaurant overlooking the Potomac River, on Wednesday evening.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Bid for more MICE events: ZTA – Zimbabwe Independent

ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority Chief Executive, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka has urged players in the tourism and hospitality players to collaborate with government in bidding for Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions Tourism (MICE) events.

Muchanyuka was speaking at the 2022 edition of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Congress which kicked off in Victoria Falls yesterday. 

“I would like to encourage the hospitality industry to continue working closely with the ZTA and other government arms to jointly formulate strategies to bid for more MICE business. We must find strategic ways to collaborate in our quest to promote Zimbabwe as a first choice MICE destination,” said Muchanyuka. 

“There is a lot of potential for us to create more MICE businesses locally. We just need to have a more collaborative approach as a sector. If you look at our statistics for this year, you will find out that MICE contributed quite significantly to the general recovery of the sector.

Muchanyuka said hoteliers have indicated that most of the MICE business was generated from the domestic market which was mostly constituted of government agencies, the corporate sector and nongovernmental organisations.

“MICE business continues to be the dominating force in generating room occupancies for hotels,” she said. 

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Zim traverses globe to reclaim tourism markets – NewsDay

THE battle to reclaim tourism markets have accelerated since governments eased Covid-19 pandemic restrictions this year. In an interview with our business reporter Freeman Makopa (FM) this week, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu (MN) tells us the strides the country has made. Below are excerpts of the interview:

FM: What is the outlook for the tourism industry?

MN: Since the beginning of the year, global tourism has continued to exhibit signs of consistent recuperation from the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Current trends for Zimbabwe have shown recovery, which has been supported by the bouncing back of worldwide inbound travel and growth in domestic tourism.

FM: How has the industry performed this year?

MN: The first nine months of 2022 saw a 165% rise in tourist arrivals. Arrivals increased to 693 498 during the period, from 261 415 during the same period in 2021. This is more than double the number of international arrivals received during the first nine months of 2021.

FM: This means hotel room occupancies have also improved

MN: Yes, on average, occupancies for the first nine months of 2022 grew by 21 percentage points. Occupancies rose from 21% in 2021 to 42% in 2022. Overall, this performance has been reinforced by domestic tourism, which is dominant, contributing 95% of tourism business in 2022.

FM: How has Zimbabwe managed to drum up domestic tourism during this difficult period, economically?

MN: Like any other country, Zimbabwe is traversing through the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going war in Ukraine. These have affected global economies, travel and trade. Given this economic situation, the tourism sector is implementing the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (TRGS), which is driving the growth of tourism. This is mainly through campaigns to accelerate meetings, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and domestic tourism. The ZimBho, MeetInZim and InvestInZim campaigns have stimulated domestic and business tourism.

FM: Please share the investment levels into the sector attributable to these campaigns

MN: These campaigns have contributed to tourism growth doubling for January to September 2022 as alluded to earlier. There have been investments totalling US$306,7 million during the period, from US$90,4 million. This was mostly invested into accommodation facilities and vehicle hire.

FM: How do you plan to sustain this growth trajectory?

MN: The tourism sector is guided by the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1, 2021 to 2025 and the TRGS. NDS1 agitates for the growth of the tourism sector through increased investment into diversified products, while TRGS seeks to grow the tourism economy to US$5 billion by 2025. The ministry has the following programmes in place, in its endeavour to achieve the NDS1 goals: product development and diversification, instituting ease of doing business reforms, climate proofing of the tourism sector and establishing a tourism satellite account.

FM: Tell us about the role of the private sector in these initiatives

MN: Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is government-led and private sector driven. The ministry and the private sector already have synergies to promote the country through bilateral agreements signed with other countries in the region and abroad. The ministry is currently implementing memoranda of understanding on cooperation in the field of tourism with South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These provide the public and private sectors the opportunity to jointly market and promote destinations, exchange of programmes for professional in the sector and joint collaboration of private sector associations. Government also supports private sector participation at international travel fairs through subsidising participation fees of operators. The ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), jointly with the private sector, participates annually at fairs such as World Travel Market in London, International Travel Bourse in Berlin, Germany and Indaba Travel Fair in Durban, South Africa. 

FM: What else is the government doing?

MN: Over and above the synergies, the ministry is establishing market presence in the country’s key tourism source markets. Two tourism attachés were deployed in August and September 2022 to China and the United Arab Emirates. An additional nine tourism attachés were recently appointed and are expected to be deployed in the first quarter of 2023 to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, South Africa, China and Japan. Physical presence in key source markets and the joint synergies with the private sector will aid government in promoting the destination internationally, attracting more tourists to the country.

FM: Tell us about financial support to the industry.

MN: The government of Zimbabwe has put in place several incentives to help the tourism sector. These include duty rebates on capital equipment for use in tourism development zones.  We also have SI 10 of 2022, which spells out rebate on duty for safari vehicles and tour buses and SI 279 of 2019, which spells out rebates in respect of new capital equipment for expansion, modernisation and renovation of hotels and restaurants within hotels.

The funding also supports boat equipment imports, among others. There are also tax breaks in tourism development zones and tax exemptions for investments into the Victoria Falls tourism special economic zone. 

FM: What are the developments on the electricity front, with regards to tourism?

MN: Electricity and water are already subsidised by the government. As a result, Zimbabwe has one of the cheapest utilities in the Sadc region in this respect. The government of Zimbabwe in 2018 launched the National Tourism Masterplan, which is an overarching guide to the development of tourism in Zimbabwe. The master plan identified potential tourism nuggets to grow new tourist attractions in Zimbabwe. The plan has identified 11 tourism development zones in Harare, Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani, Gonarezhou, Limpopo, Great Zimbabwe, Midlands, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kariba and Mavhuradonha. Government has put in place incentives to support investments into special economic zones and tourism development zones that investors can take advantage of.

The national tourism policy agitates for an enabling environment to attract investment into the sector. It also uses tourism to attract foreign direct investment into the country. At the same time, the government will ensure the industry is protected from disinvestment through primary and secondary legislation.

FM: Are you happy with accessibility?        

MN: Accessibility is the backbone of the growth of tourism destinations. And air accessibility contributes significantly to the growth of regional and international tourist arrivals to any destination. Air Zimbabwe, therefore, plays a critical role in providing direct access to Zimbabwe from key source markets and an instrumental role in national identity. The airline connects Harare with local destinations such as Victoria Falls. To strengthen the role of Air Zimbabwe in connecting travellers, the government has allowed private sector players such as Fasjet and Kuva Air to fly from Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba. We are fully behind the capacitation of the airline and the massive investment in the expansion of the ports of entry.

FM: We have seen more airlines returning to this market. Please share with us what has been happening

MN: The cross-cutting role of infrastructure development, such as the expansion of airports has a huge impact on all sectors of the economy. Airport expansion will boost the country’s growth and transformation in trade and tourism as part of strides. Airport expansion, as seen with at Victoria Falls International Airport, will attract new aircrafts and airlines.

The expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport saw African airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Air Botswana, Fastjet, Airlink and Kenya Airways increasing flight frequencies to the resort town.

It also attracted new airlines like Eurowings from Germany and Mack Air from Botswana.

This also increased the airport’s passenger handling capacity from 500 000 a year to about 1,5 million. 

Expansion will, therefore increase regional and international tourist arrivals into the country, tourism receipts and the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product as well as attainment of the US$ 5billion tourism sector by 2025.

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