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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At Last, Some Fiscal Sanity

Unfortunately, the fiscal sanity isn’t happening here.

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister, on Wednesday halved spending plans for 2009 and cut revenue projections 40 per cent, in one of the first signs of change under the country’s new power-sharing government.

Presenting his first budget, Mr Biti, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, said the government would operate on a cash budget basis: “What we gather is what we eat.”

It’s an awful shame when the finance minister from Zimbabwe--one of the most blighted, backward, and failing countries in the world--shows the kind of sense that our own leaders here in America can’t quite fathom. Live within your means. Try to honestly project your revenues. Cut spending instead of printing another trillion dollars.

This is the most positive change I’ve seen in Zimbabwe in a long time. Not because it represents a big step forward (given the actual value of the Zim dollar, I still wonder how they’ll manage to dig out of the hole Mugabe dug for the nation), but because it represents some real power sharing. This is the first meaningful thing that’s been done by a member of an opposition party in a long time.

I wouldn’t and don’t trust Mugabe to keep his word, to share power peacefully, or to allow the kinds of changes that might ultimately save Zimbabwe from the final collapse that would destroy the government and fairly force a civil war, but it’s nice to latch on to a little hope (and change!) now and again. Especially when it is embodied in good ideas.

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