The law and the numbers

3 03 2014

“Chinamasa’s Job on the Line” blared the title page of the Financial Gazette, the weekly financial newspaper, on sale yesterday. Now the newspaper billboards in this country are as about as misleading as anywhere but the FinGaz or Pink Paper (the cover is printed on pink newsprint) is a little less sensationalistic than the rest of the competition and it does like to take itself a bit more seriously. So I bought a copy at the traffic lights (I made sure other vehicles could get past) and well, I needed some paper to start the braai (barbeque).

Patrick Chinamasa is the current Minister of Finance who has the unenviable job of finding enough money to keep the government running when it is obviously broke. Apparently President Mugabe had told him if he wasn’t up to the job he’d find someone else to do it.

Chinamasa’s background is not in finance. I’m not sure what history is but he certainly had an easier run in his former portfolio as the Justice Minister. Mind you, it’s easy to run a ministry like that when you control the police so you effectively ARE the law. Paradoxically the previous finance Minister was Tendai Biti who actually is a lawyer and did a good job with extremely limited resources.

The FinGaz also notes that Chinamasa came back empty-handed from a recent world tour to source finance for the beleaguered government. No real surprise this as apparently potential investors are concerned about the 51% law which requires all Zimbabwe companies to have a majority indigenous shareholder. Despite being born here I am not indigenous – all locally born blacks are considered indigenous as is anyone born after independence in 1980. Well, Comrade Chinamasa likely has an insurmountable problem ahead of him. The laws of economics (which is just a branch of mathematics) are inviolate unlike his previous ministry where the law was wide open to manipulation and interpretation. And even our good friends the Chinese don’t want to help out.

In the news

7 02 2009

It seems that Barack Obama will get most of his economic rescue package through the Senate. Nobody knows for sure if it will work but they are going to have to give it a try even if it does create a trillion dollar budget deficit. The Zimbabwe Government has not been paying attention and seems determined to kill off the economy before it can even start. In the process they have also removed another 12 zeros off the Zim dollar; that makes it 28 in just over 2 years. How they will ever restore faith in the local currency is beyond me!

Yesterday, chatting to my local pharmacist, I was told that the Reserve Bank officials had been calling to see that businesses in the area were licensed to deal in real money. Most formal outlets will be charged 12000 USD a year, payable as $1000 a month. This is certainly beyond my limits and I gather that a lot of businesses have simply stopped trading. Informal traders (on the street) will be charged $25 a year so perhaps there will be surge of vendors outside more formal outlets.

Italy is all in a tizzy over the ruling by their highest court that the woman who has been in a vegetative state for the last 17 years be allowed to die with Berlusconi trying to halt the process and the president refusing to sign his decree (as unconstitutional). The Vatican, predictably, in some absurd right to “life” issue would like her to carry on in the vegetative state for as long as modern medicine can keep her that way. This would undoubtedly be a very long time. Withholding sustenance until she dies would not be cruel – she essentially died 17 years ago, but it would certainly be a release for her family from a person they no longer know. The chances of a spontaneous recovery are close to zero. I have it written into my will that in case I enter into such a state with no chance of recovery I be allowed to die. A lawyer pointed out a while back that it has to be a living will so I’d better change it sometime.