No joy on extolled China mega deals

HARARE – Analysts say Zimbabwe is a long way from tying down and reaping the benefits of its much-vaunted multi-billion dollar “mega deals” with China, which first hit the headlines in 2014.

This is despite President Robert Mugabe’s recent visit to Beijing, which saw both Zanu PF apparatchiks and State media using megaphones to suggest that the deals were about to be consummated, two years after the visit to Harare by Chinese President Xi Jinping where he signed several memorandum of understandings (MOUs), amid hopes that Beijing would rescue Zimbabwe’s dying economy.

But both economic and political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the so-called mega deals would remain a pipe dream as long as there were no reforms in the country, including clarity on Mugabe’s succession.

Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies, Steven Chan, said China was also keen on seeing Harare coming out with clear and workable economic policies.

“No-one, not even the Chinese, will ride to Zimbabwe’s rescue until Zanu PF  bites the bullet and cleans up the economy in a transparent and, above all, technocratic manner. Politics has nothing to do with it. Fiscal probity and stability have everything to do with it.

“The Chinese work with as much data as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Insofar as Chinese banks might be involved in financing investments, they need to behave like banks anywhere, as they are not charities.

“China is right now in no rush to throw good money into a bad situation. What will probably happen is that, to allow face to be saved all round, there will be some modest release of funds and drip-feed to selected projects,” Chan said.

Xi paid a state visit to Zimbabwe in December 2015, before attending a summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation in Johannesburg, where he promised multi-billion dollar investments for the African continent.

During his meeting with Mugabe earlier this week, Chinese State media reported that Xi merely said China was willing to encourage capable companies to invest in Zimbabwe and expand mutually beneficial co-operation.

Economist John Robertson said China was “so business-minded” that it was only prepared to invest in sound projects, adding that the Asian economic giant was also worried about Zimbabwe’s investment laws that did not protect investors.

“China has repeated its willingness to invest in any good projects, nothing more. Good projects will be secured by a clear commitment that protect investor rights, and Zimbabwe keeps forgetting these promises and so trust has to be rebuilt,” Robertson said.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the consummation of the mega deals was being hampered by the country’s poor governance culture that had been entrenched by Mugabe over the years.

“To better our economic prospects and be attractive to investors, including China, we have to improve our ease of doing business by improving governance, ridding our systems of corruption and reducing political risk,” he said.

Mugabe and Zanu PF have often described China as the country’s “all-weather friend” in the face of vilification by Western nations on allegations of rights abuses and their failure to respect the rule of law, among various other vices.

Last year, Mugabe described Xi as a “true and dear friend” of Zimbabwe, as the country sought to deepen its Look East policy, to boost investment and economic co-operation between the two countries.

Mugabe, who turns 93 next month, is facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year rule as the country’s once vibrant economy continues to die.

He is also struggling to unite his deeply-divided party, amid growing civil unrest which has re-energised the fragmented opposition. – Daily News

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