BD: How would you describe the implementation of the MTP (2011-2015)? What challenges are you facing in implementing the programme and how do you think you will overcome them?
TM: The first structured evaluation of the MTP will happen in July 2012, one year on. At this juncture, all we can do is have a conversation on the implementation progress thus far. When assessing the implementation of the MTP, one has to carefully examine its national priorities, key macroeconomic targets and growth drivers, sectoral plans and infrastructural plans and of course the MTP’s social development agenda within the context of a five-year time line.
On the macro-economic front, the key target was that the economy would grow by an average of 7% per annum, between 2011 and 2015. So far, I can say we are on course. In 2011, GDP growth surpassed the MTP target as the economy registered a 9,3% growth rate. On the Inflation front, the year-on-year Inflation for 2011 closed at 3,2 %.
The MTP envisaged an annual average inflation figure of 5%. Government continues to maintain the cash budget and keep the budget deficit under control. The 2012 budget is actually the first post MTP budget which was crafted within the MTP policy framework. Therefore, the 2012 budget seeks to operationalise the 2012 MTP programmes and targets.
You may recall that the 2012 budget allocated US$800 million towards the public sector investment programme (PSIP) or put simply, the capital budget. This is basically to implement MTP infrastructure projects in energy, water, transport, housing and ICT. Ministries have already designed their individual work plans within the context of the MTP. Shortly, the prime minister’s office will organise a strategic retreat of the Council of Ministers to develop the 2012 Government Work Programme which speaks to the MTP.
So I can say that already there is a lot of good work in progress regarding the implementation of the MTP. Of course, resources will pose a challenge but so far we cannot pre-judge the implication of scarce resources because the budget has set aside some amounts for MTP implementation as we all know that Zimbabwe has not yet started receiving direct budgetary support from development partners.
Any assistance that has come so far has been channelled as technical cooperation, humanitarian support or direct support for infrastructural development programs in local authorities.
BD: There are many turnaround strategies in Zimbabwe since 2000. What makes this plan different?
TM: The problem we have faced in Zimbabwe is that people have strong memories but a very weak vision. Your question actually betrays this unfortunate phenomenon. There is no going back on the MTP. Implementation has already started, and come July 2012, we should be able to take stock of achievements and challenges. For now, let us give the MTP the necessary gestation.
BD: Can this plan live beyond the GNU?
TM: The MTP is a government economic blueprint which was approved by the cabinet of the inclusive government after wide consultation with all stakeholders. Therefore it is a national plan that transcends party politics. The MTP has been well-received in all the 10 provinces in which we launched it. It has also received regional and international endorsement in terms of its quality judged against best practice. For these reasons I don’t see why the MTP should not outlive the GNU. But that is beside the point.
The key thing is that plans are not cast in stone. After all any good plan should be prone to revisions and adjustments depending on the prevailing objective conditions on the ground at a particular time. What is important is to stick to the right policies and take the right policy direction indicated in the MTP. Any fundamental departure will spell disaster. Of course, we have to cross the bridge when we get there and it’s not gonna be too long before we get there.
BD: What has become of the programme to re-engage Zimbabweans from the diaspora. Is it true that it faced resistance from some quarters who thought it was a political programme when it was for investment?
TM: My ministry will proceed with the engagement of diasporans in order to unlock their potential to invest back home and contribute to national economic development. In fact, if we properly engage the diasporans in a much more structured manner, we may realise that we can even raise the US$9billion, which is the minimum required to finance the MTP projects. In other countries like Eritrea, Phillipines and others, the diasporan community has been key in the recovery of these economies.
However, we have to unveil fiscal incentives to the diasporans in order to encourage them to return. In this regard, I wish to express my gratitude to IOM for trying as best they could to assist returnees. I hope that the constitution will allow dual citizenship so that it will become easier for diasporans to return and invest while they continue to live abroad.
BD: How best can Zimbabwe clear its external debt?
TM: From a cashflow point of view, in my opinion, Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to meet its huge debt service obligations. Yes it is true that we may not be as poor as others would want us to believe but the relevant point is that resources are useful only when extracted transparently and revenues get properly accounted for and put to good use. Otherwise, we remain trapped in poverty and having nothing to show for the abundant resource endowments. We remain trapped in the labyrinth of a resource curse.
The approval by cabinet of a hybrid model of debt management is a positive step. Already a debt management office has been set up at the Ministry of Finance to audit, reconcile and consolidate debt figures and start engaging with our creditors on payment schedules and or postponement.
Because of this transparent approach, other development finance institutions (which I shall not name), have already started funding some of our infrastructural projects, even though we still owe them quite a lot. What creditors want to see is the presence of a coherent policy framework for economic stabilization and development. And in our case, Sterp I, Sterp II and the MTP have been embraced by the international community as a compendium of policies that point to the right direction. That has become the basis for engaging our creditors within the context of debt management. Of course, as government we have learnt key lessons on debt contracting and the need to be transparent on issues of debt.
Debt is no longer a government issue per se. It is now an issue for civil society. In other words it had become a national issue which should therefore be handled accordingly.
BD: How far has your ministry gone with the setting up of the national economic council which will give advice to government on economic policies, plans and programmes? We understand politics is standing in its way.
TM: I honestly hope that no politics should stand in the way of establishing the NEC, which is an apolitical advisory body. After all, we make policies for the people and in consultation with the people. The NEC will provide the platform for government to engage stakeholders on social and economic matters.
The proposed NEC will bring together business, labour, academia, representatives of political parties, and other stakeholders. It will have a Secretariat and an independent Chairperson. Its role will remain advisory.
BD: What drives and motivates you as a person?
TM: Humility and being able to serve the people with honesty and integrity is something that keeps me going.