President Robert Mugabe last week provided the prescription for the economic crisis, the same path he has walked since 1980 but failed on implementation.
BY NDAMU SANDU
The prescription, a 10-point plan for economic growth, looks like a summarised version of the economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) and was presented during Mugabe’s State of the Nation address last week.
It focuses on revitalising agriculture, value addition and beneficiation to mining and agricultural endowments, encouraging private sector development, focusing on infrastructure development, restoring and building confidence in the financial sector and modernising labour laws.
The plan seeks to unlock the potential of small to medium enterprises, promote joint ventures and public private partnerships, pursuing an anti-corruption thrust and implementation of special economic zones to provide the impetus for foreign direct investment.
Economist John Robertson said it was “a list which any schoolchild could write” and not a proper plan as it does not stipulate how a turnaround would be achieved.
“It won’t take us anywhere as it is not attacking the things that caused the problems in the first place,” said Robertson.
The economist also said the plan exposed a contradiction on the need to attract investments and the continued existence of the Indigenisation Act.
The empowerment laws stipulate that any business with a value of at least $500 000 should be in the hands of locals.
Another economist with a leading commercial bank who preferred to remain anonymous said the 10-point plan represented some of the short term goals that could be achieved from ZimAsset.
“Given what is happening in the economy, the authorities seemed to have extracted something from Zim Asset to get results in the short term. However, they should have put more meat in terms of implementation. Who is responsible for what and what is the timeline?” the economist said.
An analyst told Standardbussiness that Mugabe’s plan was “a description of a destination without providing the means to reach there”.
Other analysts said the anti-corruption thrust was “an old script and there is nothing new” as the country had in the past pledged to fight the graft cancer which has become a plague in the country.
Every year the Auditor-General’s office publishes reports on mismanagement of resources in state-owned enterprises and parastatals. The culprits have gone scot-free, raising questions on government’s sincerity to rid the country of corruption.
Robertson said senior officials in government believed that their actions were not corruption but entitlement due to party loyalty.
Since 1980, government has had over a dozen economic blueprints seeking to lay the path for economic growth, but all of them have not been implemented.
The Transitional National Development Plan (1986-90), according priority to poverty reduction, was launched with the objective that government would invest money towards increased social sector development, expansion of rural infrastructure and redressing social and economic inequalities such as those created by skewed land tenure systems inherited from the colonial past.
It was dumped in the 1990s for the Bretton Woods-inspired Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap).
Esap promised to reduce central government deficit from 10% of GDP to 5% by the fiscal year 1994-95. This did not happen, and the programme was subsequently abandoned.
The Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (Zimprest), touted as a home-grown panacea to the country’s mounting economic problems, was launched in February 1998, though it ran retrospectively from 1996.
Besides seeking to advance the unfinished work of Esap, Zimprest also added socio-political goals such as improvements in the quality of democratic institutions, the pursuit of good governance and the elimination of corruption.
Zimprest was abandoned for another programme: the Millennium Economic Recovery Programme in August 2001. It was rendered ineffective, largely due to the withdrawal of international donor support in February 2003.
The National Economic Development Programme was crafted in 2006 promising heaven-on-earth with forecasts that $2,5 billion would be raised within three months. Like previous programmes, it died a natural death.
In 2008, government came up with a new plan, Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy, which was billed to run from 2009 up to 2013. Again it suffered a still birth.