Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Bad Luck"

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.  
“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”
– Robert A. Heinlein

In an article on how the Chinese and other international investors are reluctant to invest money in Zimbabwe, the International Business Times makes this observation:
[President] Mugabe’s policies on land reform and black economic empowerment in 2000, which ordered the takeover of white-owned farms, have also comprised [sic] economic growth and deterred investors. The land reform program led to an economic crash in which agricultural production slumped 73 percent, unemployment rocketed to over 90 percent, inflation soared to 250 million percent and the population was living on just $2 per day by 2008. At the same time, Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated to have contracted by a total of 50.3 percent between 2000 and 2008.
However, several articles in June of this year indicated that Zimbabwe's Mugabe may be acknowledging that he made a mistake. For instance, Quartz magazine writes:
But now the tide is shifting again. Mugabe’s people have hinted strongly, for the first time, that farmers can return–at least some of them. This will be some 15 years after the Zimbabwe government began seizing their land. 
A few selected white farmers will be granted security of tenure on farms regarded to be ‘of strategic economic importance.’ Meanwhile black beneficiaries are expected to start paying a small rental fee per acre that will be used in part to compensate the more than 4,000 evicted white farmers according to the country’s minister of lands, Douglas Mombeshora. 
Last year, BBC reported Mugabe told an audience, “We say no to whites owning our land and they should go.” It is the first time that the Zimbabwe government has publicly hinted on the failure of its unsustainable land policy. 
The country that was once dubbed “the breadbasket of the region” has suffered an estimated $12 billion in lost agriculture production since the land occupations took place and has had to rely on donor handouts and food imports from neighboring countries. At least 1.8 million tonnes of the staple grain, maize, is required annually to feed the nation. 
Zimbabwe’s transformation from exporter to importer of food is blamed by some analysts on the land reform program, which saw white commercial farmers lose farms to landless blacks who are said to lack the skills to farm or capital. Agriculture used to contribute some 40% of the country’s foreign currency earnings through exports. 
What has been Zimbabwe’s loss, has been a gain for neighboring Zambia, where some of these farmers moved bringing with them decades of expertise for farming similar arable land.
 Nevertheless, even this modest reform may be in jeopardy because Mugabe cannot change his basic nature, moving ahead with the seizures of 23 more farms in August 2015, including one owned by a profitable winery that Mugabe's wife has long had an eye on.

The IBT article further adds:
After the worst regional drought in nearly a decade and devastating crop failures, Zimbabwe’s 2015 harvest is forecast at 950,000 metric tons of corn, which is far less than the 1.8 million metric tons the population needs. Around 16 percent of Zimbabwe’s population will lack reliable access to sufficient food later this year, according to the United Nations World Food Program. The southern African country now plans to pay $168 million to import 700,000 tons of white maize this year to feed those facing famine in the coming months.

More than 200,000 workers have lost their jobs in Zimbabwe over the past few weeks and the country’s earlier 3.2 percent economic growth forecast for 215 was slashed to just 1.5 percent in July, according to Reuters.
Bad luck, indeed.

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