Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared, “Zimbabwe is open for business” and what it has meant is severe austerity measures that hit the poor hardest in a country already reeling from skyrocketing poverty and unemployment.
In November, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, announced the annual budget, which he summarized with the phrase “austerity for prosperity,” quoting the 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill: “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” This was an attempt to build rationale for cutting expenditure on most sectors of the economy. In fact, Ncube has quoted the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who saw her neoliberal economic policies as the only path, often saying “There Is No Alternative” (TINA). Ncube believes that this will attract foreign investment, particularly from China, which is now considered a savior of Africa. This, he hopes, will help alleviate the financial crisis and open the market for international trade relations that will bring a much-needed foreign currency injection to boost failing local industries.Even prior to his speech, Ncube had begun implementing austerity, with his most unpopular move being the imposition of a 2 percent tax on electronic money transactions. Almost every Zimbabwean pays with mobile money, debit card, or by bank transfer because of a cash shortage tied to a spiraling trade deficit.