Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

You Can’t Flee Zimbabwe – Government Out Of Money To Buy Passport Paper

There are certain bits of government that are actually necessary, there are certain things which simply must be imported to aid in doing those essential government actions. A good signal, symbol, of government falling into catastrophic disorder is when the trivial sums necessary to purchase such imports prevent those necessary things from being done.

There was an example of this under Mugabe. That 100 trillion Zim $ note we all make fun of. The only reason they didn’t carry on printing was because those notes weren’t worth enough to buy the ink necessary to print further notes. And bank note ink just isn’t something you cook up at home out of a few oak galls. You’ve got to use real money and when the people who control the printing press manage to run out of it then you know that’s a disaster.

This might just be incompetence on display here but that’s just as bad:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]THE crisis at the passport offices is far from over, with Registrar-General Clemence Masango failing to give an estimate timeframe of when the processing of travelling documents will resume following suspension of the services during the week, allegedly due to technical glitches.[/perfectpullquote]

You can’t even flee the country as you can’t get the passport necessary to do so. But why?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The passports office has been dogged by a host of challenges, including shortage of passport paper.[/perfectpullquote]

You don’t get passport paper from the regular stationer. Actually, it’s usually about the same people who provide banknote paper. It’s not expensive, we might be talking a few tens of thousands of dollars here to get the Zimbabwean passport office fully stocked up. And a few tens of thousands of dollars doesn’t seem much for a country to have to find. Especially as those being issued a passport get charged for it, thereby providing the payback for having bought the paper. But:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Early this year, the Registrar-General admitted in Parliament that the demand for emergency passports had increased, thereby putting pressure on the dwindling passport paper. He also cited foreign currency challenges.[/perfectpullquote]

Either the Zimbabwean government simply doesn’t have the foreign currency to be able to buy a trifling amount of security paper. Or the internal allocation systems are so appallingly bad that what cash there is just isn’t being spent on those things which government really must be doing. Neither bodes well for the future of the state.

There was a hope that with Mugabe gone things would get better. The foolishness over RTGS, bond notes, exchange rates and so on were one sign that this might not be true. Further shafting of the tobacco farmers over FX rates was a second. And if they’re not able to deal with simply things like passports, maybe not much has improved.

Well, no, that’s unkind, there’s nothing to indicate that the new government is positively malevolent which is a nice change. But we don’t seem to have had more than the most minor uptick in effectiveness or efficiency in policy making.

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