Business and labour are in the dark over the distribution of a ZW$18 billion (US$219,5 million) stimulus package announced by government three months ago to ameliorate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, amid concerns about the impact of inflation as well as revelations that the initiative had not reached struggling industries.

The stimulus package, which was announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on May 1, is meant to assist all productive sectors by ensuring they revive operations and maintain jobs. It was designed to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of fatalities globally, while also helping business following losses from the resultant national lockdown which was imposed by government on March 30.

The ZW$18 billion stimulus package consists of agriculture support (ZW$6,08 billion), Working Capital Fund (ZW$3,02 billion), Mining Sector Fund (ZW$1 billion), SME Support Fund (ZW$500 million), Arts Sector Fund (ZW$20 million), Liquidity Release from Statutory Reserves (ZW$2 billion), Health Sector Support Fund (ZW$1 billion), Broad Relief Measures (ZW$1,5 billion) and Food Grant (ZW$2,40 billion).

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo said labour and business demanded at their last tripartite negotiating forum meeting to know from government the details of how the bailout package had been distributed and to whom.

“During the TNF, we discussed the containment measures of Covid-19 besides testing and World Health Organisation guidelines. Business and labour wanted to find out who had benefited from the stimulus package; whether it was through the banks, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe or another channel,” Moyo said.

“Our fear is that the money will end up with someone who does not even have a company just as what happened during the farm mechanisation programme where individuals without farms got farming mplements. We as labour want that money to go to companies so that it saves jobs.”

He said they are still awaiting a comprehensive response from government as to how the funds have been disbursed.

Moyo said there is need for the timeous distribution of the stimulus package given the depreciation of the local unit as a result of runaway inflation, which has since surpassed the 700% mark.

“Inflation might dampen the effectiveness of the stimulus package. If there is a delay in the distribution of the money under the package, it will be of little value as it would have been decimated by inflation,” Moyo warned.