Mujuru, speaking at the Ernst and Young Dialogue, held in Harare on Wednesday, stated the obvious, saying there should be clear and open lines of communication between business and government, but the reason why we say “bravo” to her is that this has been lacking.
Government has in the past few years been cocooning itself and had become impervious to ideas and advice from business as well as other groups including labour and churches. The result of government’s move to isolate itself from other players has been the policy failure we have seen has cost the country dearly.
Ruinous policies which come to mind include land reform implemented in 2000, Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, price slashes in 2007 and of late indigenisation regulations. There was no dialogue in the first three and there is a a danger that the indigenisation policy could go the same way.
It is thus heartening to note that finally government has realised that policies, that is the process by which authorities translate their political vision into programmes and actions to deliver outcomes need to be informed by other players outside the state.
Mujuru told businesspeople that they should feel free to make suggestions to government, something that is refreshing and a good step in the right direction.
Business, like any other interest group, is very important in any policy cycle and the call by the vice-president, if taken seriously, would be one of the key elements towards policy success. Failures, past and present, can be attributed to an inability to consult on the part of government.
Using a structured approach, the public policy cycle follows five stages, namely agenda setting (problem identification), policy formulation, adoption, implementation and evaluation. The input of business as well as other interest groups is very important in each of the stages.
Business is affected by government policy and it would be extreme arrogance not to dialogue with them at each of the stages. If we are to take Mujuru’s word, then the light is finally showing for the authorities and we expect an improvement in delivery.
We expect that the current indigenisation regulations, which Mujuru told a wide spectrum of businesspeople who attended the dialogue meeting on Wednesday were not all about grabbing wealth, would be informed by input from business as well as other interest groups, not the usual cabal of activists who pretend to represent the people of Zimbabwe.
Business, which will be affected by the indigenisation policy, has since the announcement of the regulations earlier this year came up with various models and suggestions on how it has to be implemented.
However, while we commend the vice-president, we remain cautious and sceptical as saying one thing is different from implementing it and the history of policy implementation in Zimbabwe has proven that despite impressive blueprints, there has been a glaring inability to implement them.
As a politician, Mujuru could have read the mood of the audience she was addressing and could have told them what they wanted to hear, and until we see changes in the approach to various policies, we are justified in qualifying our comment.
The audience Mujuru addressed comprised businesspeople who highlighted challenges they faced, especially regarding the effort to revive industry which has staggered despite institution of a government of national unity and the adoption of multiple currencies last year.
The businesspeople should be commended for their stand on elections, which they say should be delayed arguing that if they were held early, they would disrupt the gains realised so far. It remains to be seen if this vital input would influence government policy in the short term or it would be back to the usual aloofness which has come to characterise our policy makers.
The businesspeople also encouraged government to start talking with all international partners as a means of attracting foreign direct investment. This is vital as government, by its own admission, has failed to attract as much investment into the country as it would have wanted.
As the saying goes “The test of the pudding is in the eating”.