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Command Agriculture: A great deception

FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube last week delivered the 2021 national budget. It was a clear budget on the path the country is taking — neoliberalism — and further squeezing of the poor working class and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the same time creating socialism for the rich. Paidamoyo Muzulu It is important to define two terms in the introduction – neoliberalism and socialism for the rich. Neoliberalism is an economic concept popularised by economist Milton Friedman of the Chicago School of Economics. At its basic form, neoliberalism is about free market economics — markets (capital) knows best. Socialism for the rich is a term that came into wider use during the 2008/9 economic global recession. Governments across the world bailed out struggling banks and large corporations so that they would not collapse yet the same governments are criticised for providing social safety nets for the poor and vulnerable. Ncube marked the path Zimbabwe will pursue to prosperity — Vision 2030 —  creating an upper middle-class economy with a per capita income of above US$4 000. This is a grand vision. The vision is supported by increasing and aggressive revenue collection. It is hinged on taxing what all along has become known as the invisible economy — informal sector. First was the introduction of the 2% intermediate mobile money transfer tax. In the second wave for taxes, Ncube increased the presumptive tax to on average $10 000 per month for saloons, general dealer shops and bars and nightclubs. Landlords housing informal businesses are also to act as Zimbabwe Revenue Authority agents to collect the equivalent of US$30 per month levy for a cubicle. The new tax regime does not affect big business. Tax brackets for big businesses have remained flat. In addition, they received a bailout and tax breaks for their operations. Big businesses are still to fully utilise the $18 billion COVID-19 fund.  Those in tourism can still bring in buses/coaches without paying import duty. In simple terms, Ncube is saying to SMES formalise or close shop; or else I will make it very difficult for you to operate by a multiplicity of taxes. The Emmerson Mnangagwa-led administration is certain that Zimbabwe will farm itself out of poverty. To that end, each year since 2015 has set aside money for Command Agriculture, a military co-ordinated production of maize, soya beans and wheat. Billions of dollars have been released for the project, but there is very little to show for it five years down the lane. Zimbabwe has dilly-dallied with agriculture support for resettled farmers since 2008, but with very minimal returns. Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono in quasi-fiscal operations extended a US$200 million Farm Mechanisation Programme for agriculture support. Machinery such as tractors, combine harvesters, ploughs, boom sprays, harrows and trailers were distributed like confetti to politically connected A2 farmers. The machinery was never put to good use and the debt was assumed by the State through the RBZ Debt Assumption