Zim needs new leaders to reform

PEOPLE normally visit a doctor to get a correct diagnosis and treatment and then recover.

Taurai Mangudhla

However, a speedy recovery depends not only on the right treatment for the ailment, but also the patient’s adherence to treatment and living in a clean environment and eating healthy food. Without that, there can be complications, which can lead to a person’s demise.

Zimbabwe is one such ailing country, which has refused to take good economic advice, preferring to implement populist policies that are detrimental to the economy.

The country continues on a downward spiral into a deeper economic and political crisis because of bad governance, misalignment of priorities and mismanagement.

Since Zimbabwe adopted its multiple currency regime in 2009 after a decade of economic stagnation and hyperinflation, a number of think-tanks from across the world, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have visited the country on separate missions to help find solutions to the country’s economic problems.

Successive business conferences such as the Euromoney Conference, Mining Indaba and Zimbabwe Diamond Conference have also been held in the country.

These global financial bodies and conferences have repeatedly made key observations and recommendations such as the need for reforms in the civil service with a view to cut down the country’s wage bill — now chewing up 80% of the annual budget.

They also recommended government to take firm action against corruption; reform parastatals, ensure policy consistency and good governance. But Zimbabwe is yet to make visible efforts towards implementing the proposals.

The IMF last year called on Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to cut down on the wage bill from 80% of the budget to below 40%, but government instead increased salaries for the civil service.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze says there is need for leadership renewal as there is no political will to implement economic reforms in the current government.

“Everything rises and falls on leadership, period,” said Kanyenze.
“Look at what happened in China in 1978. They got a reform-minded leader and everything changed. What we need is not a change of personalities, but mindset; we need a paradigm shift because we need people who can really talk about transforming the economy.”

The IMF recommended Zimbabwe to repay its arrears, build confidence in the banking sector and clarify the indigenisation policy.

Despite these calls, government ministers continue to spit out contradictory statements on the indigenisation policy, with the new Indigenisation minister Chris Mushowe stating that government could compel foreign-owned companies to relinquish as much as 99% ownership to Zimbabwean locals.

The indigenisation policy currently compels foreign-owned companies to cede at least 51% ownership to locals.

“The most salient domestic risks stem from possible policy slippages that may undermine support for the authorities’ strategy to normalise relations with creditors,” said the IMF in its third review report under the Staff Monitoring programme late 2014.

“The lack of progress on reforms would further worsen the external position, set back the country’s capacity to repay, and ultimately hurt the chances for economic recovery.”

Even the Chinese, Zimbabwe’s so-called all-weather friends, seem to have avoided flattery and have given government honest advice on how to turn around the economy.

Currently, Zimbabwe’s much-touted multi-million dollar “mega-deals” with China remain pies in the sky amid indications the Asian giant has set stringent pre-conditions for their implementation, including reform of the country’s parastatals to plug revenue leakages, staff capacitation as well as the promotion of transparency and accountability.

In meetings last week with senior government officials, the visiting National Development and Reform Commission of China raised various grave concerns including viability of parastatals and rampant corruption within government.

The Chinese last year also indicated Zimbabwe needs to deal with its political risk, stemming from a lack of succession plan for its old leader President Robert Mugabe.

The Chinese also requested for “bankable projects” as opposed to policy pronouncements.

As the late famous American Literature professor, Austin O’Malley once wrote, “Some men, like a wet dog, sprinkle a shower of advice over you when you are least prepared for a bath.”

Kanyenze said government has a number of recommendations even from local experts such as the 1999 Nziramasanga Report which is yet to be implemented.

He said the doing business reforms remain all talk and no action in the same way government ditched the Medium-Term Plan before implementation of its economic blueprint ZimAsset.

“Everyone knows what has to be done, but they are not acting and it’s action that we need. If you know what is right and you don’t do it, then it’s a sin,” said Kanyenze.

“Now we have ZimAsset and all that we are doing is shouting and no implementation.”

Economist and former Economic Planning minister Tapiwa Mashakada said government should start implementing proposed solutions as a matter of urgency to save the economy from collapse and start attracting the much-needed foreign direct investment.

He said there was need for a common vision on all levels of government and tackling problems head on.

“We still have an albatross around the neck of the economy which is the country’s negative image to the outside world and it needs to be addressed,” said Mashakada in a telephone interview.

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