Independent Comment: Govt tinkering with problems

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday delivered a speech in Harare at a special Council of Ministers to adopt the 2012 Government Work Programme (GWP), saying key priorities for the current administration remain the need to promote economic growth and ensure food security.
Tsvangirai also said the other priorities include the need to guarantee basic services, strengthen and ensure the rule of law and respect for property rights, advance and safeguard basic freedoms through legislative reform and the constitutional process and to normalise international relations.

While Tsvangirai was speaking at the GWP workshop where it would have appeared government has finally put its ducks in a row and is now geared to deliver, two senior ministers, Welshman Ncube and Elton Mangoma, were addressing business executives at the Independent Dialogue Series meeting across town admitting government is dysfunctional and struggling with current economic problems.

Listening to Tsvangirai would have given one the impression that at least there is some serious work being done to sort out the problems, but taking note of the two ministers’ remarks would have shown a government in discord just tinkering with issues.

Even business executives at the Independent Dialogue Series voiced serious concerns, warning as long as the government is paralysed by internal power struggles and endless squabbles it would be difficult to tackle prevailing economic problems effectively.

The fight over key appointments and controversial policies like indigenisation are some examples showing disharmony and paralysis in government.
Although Tsvangirai’s GWP wish list for 2012 is good, the situation on the ground is rather different. The trouble is ministers don’t actually take their work seriously. Some are also corrupt and incompetent.

The other drawback is that government does not implement its own programmes. Government leaders are good at making promises but useless on delivery.

Apart from the fact that President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai himself, as we gathered yesterday, were a few days ago locked in secret talks — until they were stopped in their tracks by SA President Jacob Zuma — on taking the country to early elections, there are many other manoevures fuelling political and macro-economic instability.

Unless the issue of elections ishandled properly, government risks reversing all the gains made in the past three years and plunging the economy into a tailspin again.

The consequences of renewed political uncertainty and macro-economic instability are already with us and manifesting themselves through various ways, including the current liquidity crisis. The liquidity problem has now reached emergency proportions and become the single most critical problem facing this government.

This has put Zimbabwe at a crossroads again.

Business leaders yesterday wanted to know how then do we resolve this problem? The answer is clear, Ncube said, we need fresh elections to choose a legitimate government but only after political reforms, including a new constitution, have been finalised to create conditions for credible polls.

In the meantime, government must stop tinkering with problems and fix the situation. Coming up with cosmetic interventions won’t help anything.

Stronger policies, now under threat, and a favourable environment had helped nascent economic recovery since 2009. This was after the previous regime had ruined the economy and left it in rubble through leadership and policy failures, worsened by exogenous factors.

Structural impediments weighed heavily on manufacturing and utilities, which used to be the locomotives of growth and employment creation.

Due to power shortages and many other problems, economic recovery remains fragile and enormous challenges persist. Government urgently needs to make hard but necessary policy choices to avoid another meltdown.

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