ZIMBABWE is battling stubborn economic and political headwinds, traced to the turn of the new millennium.
Now contemplating the post-Mugabe era, its leader who has towered over every facet of the country for the last 35 years, it certainly has no other path back but up.
It certainly has a number of things going for it, but as these next seven eyebrow-raising facts show, the amount of work to be done to heave itself out of its rut is sizeable:
1: THE BREAD CONUNDRUM: It costs an estimated $1,200 to grow a hectare of wheat in Zimbabwe, compared to $600 in Australia and $230 in Ukraine. Imports of wheat and maize now cost the country $550 million every year. Yet the daily demand of bread has fallen to 850,000 loaves, from 1.5 million in 2011, as hard-pressed residents settle for alternatives.
2: AN MP FOR ‘EVERY’ ZIMBABWEAN? The southern African country has 350 parliamentarians serving its population of 13.4 million people, or a legoslator for every 38, 285 citizens. This compares to one MP for every 362,000 Nigerians, 92,000 Zambians and 138,000 Tanzanians.
3: DEFYING THE CASH CRUNCH: Zimbabwe’s total public sector workforce is now at 554,400 people, from 315,000 in 2009. Consequently, over 80% of national revenue goes to paying them, attracting the attention of the International Monetary Fund which has urged Harare to drastically chop this number. Similar reform calls, most notably in the early 1990s, have tended to end in tears.
4: ANYBODY’S COUNT: Yet getting the actual unemployment figures in Zimbabwe is no easy task. Zimstats - the country`s official statistical agency - says unemployment rose from 4.8% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2014. It also says about 90% of Zimbabweans are employed in the informal sector. However, several NGOs and other humanitarian organisations in the country place the unemployment figure at over 92%.
5: ON CRISIS WATCH: Since 2009 when Zimbabwe adopted its multi-currency system, nine banking institutions have collapsed, mainly on the altar of poor corporate governance, but also due to inadequate capitalisation. Following the 2003-04 banking crisis in Zimbabwe, there has been on average one banking sector crisis each year. Currently, Zimbabwe`s Deposit Protection Corporation has seven banking institutions on its watch list.
6: KEEPING THE LIGHTS OFF: ZESA, Zimbabwe`s power utility firm, has lost nearly $25 million through vandalism of its infrastructure over the past five years. Last year alone, the company lost $10 million worth of equipment through vandalism.
7: CHOKING ON DEBT: As at January 2015, the Zimbabwean government`s total T-Bill debt stood at $544 million compared to $358.8 million held in 2014. Zimbabwe`s total debt burden is unsustainably high and it’s reported to owe both its internal and external creditors around $8.8 billion.