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Sanctions hamper effective response to Covid-19

by Staff reporter
29 Apr 2020 at 07:45hrs | Views
THE Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow on countries' economies across the globe as they implemented measures to combat the transmission and spread of the virus.

For Zimbabwe, the virus has attacked at a time when the country is labouring under two decades of illegal sanctions that have severely crippled the economy. To make matters worse, the country has gone through two successive drought seasons that have left the country not only food insecure but many parts also facing water shortages.

The Western countries behind the sanctions against Zimbabwe however remain mum over the lifting of the punitive measures at a time when the country needs all the support to respond to the ravaging effects of Covid-19.

Last week, African Union chairperson and South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe to allow the nation to deal with Covid-19 as the continent battles with the economic impact of the virus.

Yesterday, analysts said the sanctions stand in the way of an effective response to Covid19. Mr Mlungisi Moyo, a political analyst, said the pandemic has seriously affected the country's fragile developing economy.

"We find ourselves in a position where we are faced with a lot of challenges like the health care system. It was already fragile because we were failing to develop our hospitals largely because the economy was not functional, it was suffocated, now it gets to a point where, that already frail healthcare system is supposed to help us pull out of the Covid-19 pandemic but now because we are already inheriting or we are in a pandemic period transiting from a period where the health care system was already fragile, that is one way we have been hardest hit," said Mr Moyo.

"Our economy is largely informal and the fiscus was surviving on import duties from the import of commodities that we are trading locally, now if you put this into perspective and then look at the closure of borders it means there is reduction of revenue for fiscus.

"This fiscus is not getting any capital injection from lenders of finance because of the sanctions so it was now surviving on these shoestring earnings. We were already suffocated largely because of the sanctions and now it has been exacerbated by this pandemic." Mr Moyo however said the Government, despite economic challenges, has done its best to implement measures to protect the people and businesses.

"These are very challenging times and this is one way we can look for homegrown solutions to fight the pandemic because now we're looking for foreign aid, yes we have donations from Jack Ma from China, from the UN but that can never be enough because we are not treated like any other ordinary country. "People are very cautious on how they can assist us because we already have been sanctioned so I am thinking as a way of combating these challenges, Government has to come up with robust measures that will promote production as a transitional period from the time to the time we declare victory over Covid-19," said Mr Moyo.

"The challenges have been very immense and the Government did not have enough reserve resources to assist during this time as seen by the clarion call for the corporate world to chip in with the donations and forms of assistance towards people that have been hardest hit."

National University of Science and Technology lecturer Mr Stevenson Dhlamini said there is hope for recovery after the Covid-19 battle.

"When it comes to Zimbabwe which was under sanctions and was facing economic decline and a whole quagmire of economic challenges, the pandemic of Covid-19 has come to exacerbate the situation that was already dire but on the other hand it has placed a great emphasis on much more prudent utilisation of our own resources. Yes, the first six months are going to be very painful because for production to catch up to this sudden disruption is going to be hard.

"The bulk of our goods were coming out of Zimbabwe, gladly we notice that borders are still open, goods are still coming in but I don't think much of our exports are going out which is worsening our balance of trade and more pressure is now being put on Government spending which is likely to inflate our budget deficit. Greater pressure is going to be on the shoulders of the Government to cover the gap in demand deficiency or supply disruptions," said Mr Dhlamini.

"First of all, we need to review our value chain and also our distribution networks. Let's decentralise, let the goods come to the people more than people coming to the goods. Let the agricultural sector be revamped objectively because our greatest reliance is now going to be on agricultural produce. If the Government is prudent in monitoring and managing the agricultural sector, our agricultural sector is likely to bloom and we have a potential to returning to the glory days."

Lupane State University lecturer Mr Bukhosi Mpofu concurred with Mr Dlamini saying the country has not been able to undertake projects at a desired pace because of the sanctions throttle.

"Infrastructural projects have gone on a slower pace. Because of these sanctions our hospitals remain under-equipped and don't have the necessary machinery to attend to patients," said Mr Mpofu.

Source - chroncile