THE recent consultations by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) with a number of stakeholders including the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries in which they made their input for inclusion in the first half monetary policy statement could be another case of much ado about nothing because solicited ideas are rarely implemented.
The consultations have been described as mere talk shows which do not provide solutions because the ideas gathered are rarely put to use.
Zimbabwe has a rich history of hosting high-level conferences and consultations, many of which have even attracted international attention, but unfortunately, the resolutions made often accumulate dust on the shelves due to non-implementation.
Indeed, some would say the conferences are more useful for catching up on old times with colleagues as well as putting on a few pounds from the sumptuous dishes offered at the “talkfests”.
At the end of this month, the RBZ has the onerous task of restoring confidence not only in itself as the country’s central bank, but in the financial sector as a whole.
With the financial sector still shaky due to continued closures of banks, the liquidity crunch that has seen some indigenous banks failing to honour their obligations to clients and queues re-appearing at such banks, and company closures on the rise since last year, the central bank is expected to announce measures concerning the capitalisation of banks and ensuring stability of the financial sector.
Social commentator Maxwell Saungweme said government is notorious for not taking stakeholder views seriously because the ideas generated are ignored.
“It is a good idea to consult stakeholders on a variety of issues such as monetary policy, budget and business, but government has a policy of spending much in consultations and ignoring the collected ideas,” Saungweme said.
“In the end, what we see in these policies are their own ideas which fit into their plan of action. A good example is that any idea that is not in line with Zanu PF’s economic blueprint ZimAsset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation), will not see the light of day,” he said.
However, economist Eric Bloch disagrees, saying the move by the RBZ to carry out consultations before the monetary policy announcement is a positive development.
“Consultations are a positive development and we hope the RBZ will take into considerations all ideas being proposed,” Bloch said. “My interactions with the RBZ show that the ideas being proposed by different stakeholders will be seriously considered.”
Several expos, fairs and conferences held in the country have attracted a lot of media coverage, but agreed resolutions are usually not effected.
At the end of 2013, legislators spent thousands of taxpayers’ money holding “pre-budget consultations” which many claim were ignored in the budget announced mid-December.
Mbizo legislator Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) said the MPs’ pre-budget consultations were futile as many proposals were not included in the final budget.
“The pre-budget seminar was held when the Finance minister (Patrick Chinamasa) was almost through with budget preparations. It remained a talk show as he did not accommodate issues raised by the MPs. For example, the issue of local authorities retaining road levy collections for road maintenance,” Chikwinya said.
“The pre-budget seminar became a platform for Zanu PF officials to rant over their manifesto, thus totally abusing the fora.”
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti said during his tenure he took the consultations seriously and they informed him of areas of importance that needed attention.
“During my tenure, we used to consult all stakeholders and this helped us to realise areas of importance. A national budget has to cater for all sectors and this can only be done if thorough consultations are done,” Biti said.
Another social commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, said: “While the consultations are welcome, the challenge is that the RBZ and other state institutions do not appear to be accountable to stakeholders when it comes to implementation or following up on issues discussed.”
“Any public policy initiative or process requires an accountability mechanism for the consultations to be taken seriously and also for the authorities to remain focused on the sectoral needs of whomsoever they consult,” Mukundu said.
In 2012, calls for transparency at the Diamond Conference held in Victoria Falls were largely ignored with then mines minister Obert Mpofu defending the opaque business dealings.
The recent appointment of Walter Chidhakwa as Mines minister has seen encouraging changes in government’s approach to diamond mining.
Chidhakwa has demanded transparency in diamond mining activities in Chiadzwa. He has even threatened to sever ties with partners of government who continue to pursue murky mining activities.
Chidhakwa hit the ground running by dissolving the boards of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and Marange Resources.