ALL signs appear to indicate the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP), touted as a quick-fix panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic slide, is cloned from Indonesian and Malaysi
an economic policies of the 1990s.
But what gives the Zimbabwean version a different hue is that the economic turnaround blueprint is situated in a volatile political environment as a result of Mugabe’s succession issue.
As the Zimbabwean version drifts towards its December deadline, it has assumed political dimensions heavily overshadowed by serious infighting amongst the higher ranks of the ruling Zanu PF party, hindering whatever progress it was expected to achieve.
Its major thrust to reduce inflation and raise US$2,5 billion now lies in tatters as Zanu PF’s camps battle for supremacy in the succession race.
Nothing illustrates the evaporation of hope and disillusionment among legislators more than the belief that NEDPP has failed to lift Zimbabwe out of the economic rut.
Last week Bikita West MP, Col (Rtd) Claudius Makova doubted NEDPP’s potential when he asked experts in the Economic Development ministry during parliamentary hearings: “We have moved from programme to programme. Are you saying this one is a better programme than those implemented before it?”
But more telling was Makova’s reaction on Monday this week when he expressed fears of being labelled a reactionary critic of government policies.
“These days it is a political risk to ‘see before others have opened their eyes’ lest you are viewed in different light,” Makova told the Zimbabwe Independent.
“You risk burning your fingers. There are others in our committee who expressed similar dismay and frustration but the reaction by my peers has been that I have been outspoken and too forthright in questioning NEDPP. Their remarks portray someone who has trodden where others fear to go, but I am not the only one who wondered at NEDPP’s achievements so far.”
During the mid-term 2006 monetary policy review, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono blamed bureaucratic inertia as one of the drawbacks that had beset the turnaround programme.
“Often central government has come up with noble projects and policies, but the same have fallen flat at the implementation stage or have suffered from policy reversals, indecision and contradictions as ministries and parastatals fought turf wars at the expense of the nation at large,” Gono said.
“As long as these vices are not dealt with effectively, all our efforts at turning around this economy will count for nothing.”
What Gono did not disclose was who was responsible for stymieing progress.
Politicians are beginning to question the benefits of NEDPP, voicing concerns as to whether the ambitious programme is any different from others that have been initiated before it.
NEDPP was meant to cut bureaucratic red tape and fast forward solutions to declining economic performance. It has become bogged down in a matrix of vicious political infighting over the succession race.
“We have expressed reservations about the sincerity of the people who have come to brief us on the success the programme has achieved so far,” says Pearson Mungofa, the MDC legislator for Highfield.
“There is nothing tangible that is expected to come out of that programme and we don’t expect any change,” Mungofa said. He rued that the country was losing a lot in the mining sector because there was no clear cut policy.
“Look at what is happening in Marange,” he said. “The Ministry of Mines is dead. The country could have benefited from the diamonds.”
Mungofa was the first black to qualify as a diamond cutter.
NEDPP is anchored in the Zimbabwe National Security Council that is chaired by President Mugabe, with other appendages such as the National Economic Recovery Council chaired by Vice-President Joice Mujuru. There are various committees that cover sectors such as tourism, mining and industry, among others.
Mungofa said the greatest drawback was that everything had to be sanctioned by President Mugabe.
“No matter how beneficial the advice given by the committees under NEDPP, the final say rests with Mugabe. He decides what advice to take and what not to.”
Mungofa said most Zanu PF MPs feared voicing concerns in these committees because they had to toe the party line for fear of unsettling party bigwigs.
“Aside from the occasional maverick, Zanu PF MPs seem not prepared to rock the boat.”
Sources close to the NEDPP say rivalry between two camps led by Solomon Mujuru and the party’s legal affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, aspiring to outbid each other in the succession race, has hobbled the process.
“Whatever one camp suggests as a solution to the economic woes confronting Zimbabwe is shot down by the other just to frustrate that effort,” a source privy to the machinations in the various committees said. “Each of the two camps is trying to gain competitive edge over the other.”
Critics also blame the militarisation of major state institutions as not helping move the process forward.
“Whenever pertinent questions are asked, the military guys on the committees are quick to jump up and proscribe them, saying the answers are security issues,” another source said.
Addressing the portfolio committee last week, one of the deputy directors for economic analysis in the Economic Development ministry, Thabani Dhliwayo, summed up the mood that reflects NEDPP’s failure for asking incisive questions: “Honourable senators and MPs, you have really put us in a fix.”
He said several factors such as policy reversals, a business-as-usual approach and lack of a shared vision were militating against implementing NEDPP.
One striking similarity with the Indonesian experience is that in the 1990s, the Indonesian regime’s increasingly authoritarian and corrupt practices became a source of much discontent.
Suharto’s almost unquestioned authority over Indonesian affairs slipped dramatically when the Asian financial crisis lowered Indonesians’ standard of living and fractured his support among the nation’s military, political and civil society institutions. After internal unrest and diplomatic isolation sapped his support in the mid-to-late 1990s, Suharto was forced to resign from the presidency in May 1998.
Zimbabwe’s NEDPP has not yet reached that stage. But it is already clear the programme has fallen victim to political intrigue and an absence of will.