The Sunday Mail THE year 2023 was extraordinarily difficult. The lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as the attendant rising global inflation and cost-of-living crises, continued to make life difficult around the world. As is always the norm, with economic challenges always come social strife. For example, in the three-day period between December 20 and 23, the United Kingdom, which is Europe’s second-largest economy, was roiled by a strike by junior doctors, who are pressing for a pay increase to compensate for the continued rise in mortgage rates and prices of goods and services. The restive junior doctors have even planned further industrial action for six days from January 3, which will be the longest strike in the UK’s National Health Service history. But this is not an isolated incident. Over the past 18 months, passengers in Britain have faced severe disruption to their travel because of intermittent rail strikes as workers continue to agitate for better pay. Such headline-grabbing disruptions would have ordinarily been expected in Zimbabwe, which, in addition to experiencing the same headwinds and fallout from both the pandemic and the conflict in Eastern Europe, is still encumbered by two-decade-old sanctions from the United States, Europe and the UK. Without any support from international financiers, with the exception of the close to US$1 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund in 2021, Zimbabwe has had to go it alone — of course, with a helping hand from cooperating partners and all-weather friends. Softening commodity prices on the global market, which were in sync with slowing global economic growth, even raised prospects that Zimbabwe’s economy would crash and burn. However, the opposite has been true. Our performance has been more than remarkable. A report titled “Electrifying Growth Through Reliable and Universal Energy Access”, published by the World Bank on December 13, was the clearest indication yet that Zimbabwe, contrary to expectations, is punching above its weight. “Zimbabwe’s economy has seen a strong rebound since the Covid-19 pandemic, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the Southern African Development Community (2021, 2022 and, so far, in 2023),” observed the report. “In previous years, Zimbabwe faced increased global turmoil, while expansionary monetary policy has put initial pressure on inflation and the exchange rate. Yet, since June 2023, the Government proactively tightened monetary policy to bring down inflation and the parallel market premium. It also extended the use of US dollars as legal tender until 2030, further reducing policy uncertainty.” But this outstanding performance is not fortuitous, but the result of hard work that has been put in by the Second Republic in the past five years. In the 2024 National Budget, Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube indicated that the country’s economic growth this year is forecast to rise to 5,5 percent — above the regional average — driven by “better-than-expected output in agriculture, in particular tobacco, wheat and cotton”. Increased output in the mining sector also helped temper the effect of declining commodity prices. There is no doubt that our agriculture has outperformed expectations. Tobacco and wheat harvests, for instance, were the highest they have ever been since the beginning of commercial production of the cash crops. All this shows that whatever we have been doing over the past five years is working. It also means we must double down on the same to reach the promised land — an upper middle-income economy by 2030. If President Mnangagwa has his way, we must become a prosperous and highly industrialised country, where people enjoy high standards of living, within the next five years. While cynics and critics view this as improbable, if not impossible, developments over this past year show that it is now probable. We now have a world-class airport — the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport — comparable to any in the world; a quality road that snakes from Beitbridge to Harare; a magnificent and majestic Parliament building in Mount Hampden; a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical warehouse; and an enviable modernised border post at Beitbridge, among other landmark projects. All these are building blocks of a new Zimbabwe that is on the rise. Elsewhere in this paper, we report how the Government has set aside significant resources to complete some of the major high-impact projects in 2024, which speaks to the determination by the authorities to achieve the ambitious targets they have set for themselves. While there have been significant milestones, the onerous task that lies ahead is unquestionable. It has to be remembered that Zimbabwe has been caught in a time warp, in terms of development, for nearly two decades, mostly because of the illegal sanctions from the West. So, as we welcome a new year, we must all work assiduously to create a prosperous country that we all want and deserve. Together, we can!

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