Archive | August, 2016

Diaspora Remittances: To send money or not to Zimbabwe?

1 Aug

So another debate is raging on the “controversial Zimbabwe social media” (LMAO) over the proposed shutdown on diaspora remittances to Zimbabwe from 3 – 10 August 2016. Mixed feelings really from different quarters all with genuine concerns. Others have opposed this move arguing that those who receive the funds in Zimbabwe will starve and those in favor are arguing that the remittances are propping up the ZANU PF regime and have to be blocked for a while.

There is no doubt that remittances serve a huge role in sustaining people in Zimbabwe. However, I am of the view that we need to put emotions aside and reevaluate how we are propping the ZANU PF Government through this diaspora money. I will argue in support of the 10 day shutdown of remittances to Zimbabwe and propose one or two solutions for discussion.

  • What is the message being sent here? This call for a remittances shutdown should is sending clear messages to the ZANU PF government to change its ways. The message is indirectly being sent to the Zimbabwe business community for being overly quiet when their customers are constantly faced by a ruthless and uncaring ZANU PF prevailing over a decaying economy. Indeed, those who are receiving the diaspora money should not take it for granted and think that its free money which can be used to buy from Choppies or even those Gushungo yoghurts and milk or some of these funny funny petrol stations! How dare you use hard earned to buy from a shop whose owner sleeps in a $1 000/day hotel room at the taxpayers’ expense?
  • The fear of beneficiaries starving in Zimbabwe: This fear is acknowledged and should not be taken lightly. However, we also need to acknowledge that not all the money coming into Zimbabwe is meant for food. There are people who send their savings home; there are people who are investing in Zimbabwe in construction, business and other ventures. These can wait; if the ZANU PF government is screwing you anyway, through corrupt central and local government officials what is the point. These people need money to run these institutions, it is not as if they get money from other sources to keep their well-oiled patronage systems running. A disruption of 10 days income would make them think seriously about their behaviors.
  • Is the ZANU PF Government playing its part in generating funds for the country: There is a very simple fact that 20% of the value of Zimbabwe is propped up by big and small monies sent by hardworking Zimbabweans from South Africa, USA, Canada, Australia, UK and many other countries. This is not unusual as remittances are now being counted as part of the solution to many an African government’s liquidity problems. Is it not scandalous though that Zimbabwe can afford to lose USD$15 billion worth of potential from diamonds through corruption and misgovernance and actually have to depend on such diaspora remittances for 20% of its economy? Imagine how dire the situation would have been if these diaspora funds were not brought back to Zimbabwe. Without these diaspora funds they certainly would think twice. Think about it!
  • No real value for money, anyway in Zimbabwe: The prevailing unstable political and economic environment in Zimbabwe largely caused by ZANU PF’s bad governance, offers no real value for money from the diaspora and even the funds earned locally. Overpricing and low quality products and services form the order of the day all the time. Withholding funds would send a very clear message to service and goods providers that they need to change their ways and provide value for money. The argument from the business sector is usually that they are constrained by the political and economic environment but they remain quiet because they know Zimbabweans will always come to buy. Starve them and they will also push the ZANU PF government to act. Let’s face it, your mum in Zimbabwe is sick and you send her money to a local hospital in Zimbabwe only to be told that there are no drugs and yet you would have paid the full fee. Solution: Send the money to South Africa, Botswana or even India and she will get treated there for even half the price.

Take universities for example, it’s a well – known fact that most private universities are now charging full fees. Why bother sending your brothers, sisters and children there. These institutions are collecting full fees which are now masking the real problems this ZANU PF government has unleashed on its citizens. The ZANU PF government now does not worry about how its lecturers and employees will be paid because they know students in the public institutions will pay anyway using the same diaspora funds. Look at it this way, sending your relative to another university outside would not be bad after all, would it? While they are busy looking for the lost $15 billion, your relative can be going to school somewhere else and you can be getting value for your hard earned money. Please don’t even start on the issue of patriotism. If they want to talk about that, they must start governing properly first.

  • Boycotting ZANU PF run businesses: I have on a number of occasions questioned the morality of politicians running businesses that supply public goods. I have come to an agreement with myself that there is nothing wrong with this as long as the businesses are transparent and do not get unfair advantages. The current situation where ZANU PF officials have positioned themselves in key service delivery institutions where they arrogantly keep prices high producing substandard products or unfairly benefitting from unscrupulous tax loopholes cannot be tolerated one moment further. So if diaspora funds were withheld even for those proposed 10 days coupled with clear information to families on the ground on what companies to avoid; what products not to buy and who to engage for services it would go a long way in sending very clear messages to this rogue government.

Talking temporary solutions

  •  So, a solution would be to send only the bare minimum for humanitarian purposes this time if need be. There is no need to be emotive about this. The ZANU PF government is screwing people whether they have the money or not anyway, but what is a sure way to deal with them is to withhold that which they need the most to keep them floating, and that is the diaspora money. Diaspora remittances have now become oxygen and blood for the arrogant ZANU PF government saving it from the shame and humiliation of failing to look after its own people while they gallivant and plunder national resources.
  •  Find other ways of money to Zimbabwe eventually not necessarily as cash or through the bank: So faced with a situation like the one we have in Zimbabwe, one solution would be just to ensure the money does not go through the formal banking system or the traditional money transfer agencies directly to Zimbabwe. There are a number of ways that can be done. Batter trading is one simple way. Exchange good and services where you can. No need to give these people unnecessary money. Pay for goods and services to accounts in neighboring countries. They will call it externalization or whatever but so what? Sending goods, clothes, medication are some simpler ways. Don’t be afraid, there is a threshold that can taxed, not everything.

My two cents!

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