HARARE- The Professor Mthuli Ncube led Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, whose head is former banker, George Guvamatanga, has abandoned the publication of monthly and quarterly economic data on its website.
Pertinent economic data pertaining to national revenue and expenditure is normally contained in the report and this is buttressed by sectorial information and other key aggregates such as inflation.
Since the appointment of Ncube at the Ministry, data has been consistently published, with some of the reports coming as refreshed. The Ministry also refreshed its website but could not sustain the run, losing steam barely a few months into the new dispensation.
ZimTreasury Website showing only one Quarterly Bulletin Published in 2019, with only one month left to year end.
World over Treasuries provide important economic data which is used to gauge economic healthiness. In the developed world, such as the US, some data is released every week and investors use the information to make investment decisions.
Investors typically prefer destinations that are more liberal with economic data. Zimbabwe ranks lowest in the region in terms of ability to lure foreign direct investment.
General consumers may also use such info as inflation and economic growth to make personal decisions, while policy makers also benefit from a robust information release.
While inefficiencies and deliberate data blackout, is a common practice in Zimbabwe as authorities attempt to evade public scrutiny, the timing of the blackout at the Ministry of Finance could not be any coincidental.
It came at a time the Ministry resolved to abandon austerity and revise the national budget beyond the initial set threshold of $8 billion. On growing cost pressure emanating from exchange rate liberalisation, government was forced to revise its budget to $18 billion for 2019 while anticipating $12 billion in revenue.
This net implied government was now anticipating a net wider deficit at full year than initially anticipated. This realisation coupled with consistent under performance in inflation and exchange as well as industry, meant timeous data release could increase scrutiny and public criticism.
This came at a time when government had been busking in the glory of a budget surplus which ran between Jan and May 2019.
In June government sanctioned a stoppage in the publication of annual inflation citing exchange rate effect to the base month. This has been seen as a move to contain public scrutiny of national numbers. RBZ’s reports which shows money supply trends have a 2 months backlog and therefore less reliable for decision making.
Fidelity Printers which buys gold on behalf of government, equally censors data and release information normally through state owned media at not so regular intervals. Gold is the top export product for Zimbabwe and its performance is of paramount important to economic data analysis.
Only ZIMSTAT, a government statistical office, has been consistent in releasing key data on external trade and inflation.
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