THE Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) has been lauded by Zanu PF as the economic blueprint that will unlock the country’s economic gridlock.
However, the policy’s shortcomings, according to analysts, makes the chest-beating and self-congratulations premature.
ZimAsset is the government’s new macro-economic policy that is supposed to guide economic development programmes over the next five years until December 2018.
The blueprint, which borrows from the ruling party Zanu PF’s election manifesto and previous national development programmes, identifies four major clusters, namely food security and nutrition, social services and poverty reduction, infrastructure and utilities and value addition and beneficiation.
ZimAsset comes on the back of a cocktail of economic policies that have dismally failed to breathe life into the country’s economy. These range from the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme(Esap) to Zimbabwe Programme For Economic and Social Transformation (Zimprest) to the abandoned Medium Term Plan that was supposed to run until next year, among others.
At last week’s Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) workshop on ZimAsset, acting director of fiscal policy and advisory services, Jonah Mushayi said the policy needed US$27 billion, almost seven times the country’s national budget of US$4,1 billion presented by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last year.
He added that only 7,5% of the total amount would come from the budget, while 92,5% would have to be mobilised from external sources.
External sources of funding will include joint ventures, diaspora resources, external financing as well as debt relief, according to ZimAsset.
Efforts to get funding so far have proved futile. Chinamasa went to China recently and returned empty-handed as the Chinese reportedly wanted “bankable projects instead of policy pronouncements.”
Negotiations are reportedly still under way all the same.
Economist John Robertson says without the right policies, which include the respect for property rights and curbing endemic corruption, the policy is dead in the water.
“The policy does not only need money, but also policies that would make people make that level of commitment,” Robertson said. “Policies that will not damage property and ownership rights.”
He said ZimAsset did not have a concrete milestones and substance to remedy the country’s economic ills.
“The policy is not a plan, but a description of a destination because it has neither indication nor route of how to get there,” Robertson said.
He said plans to get some of that funding from diaspora remittances was bound to fail as the efforts to securitise minerals underground.
“It is like going to Lusaka (Zambia) by digging up the road first,” he said.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze said the lack of funding was the Achilles heel.
He said the policy which “just emanated from the (Zanu PF) politburo” did not have national ownership and therefore could not succeed.
“If you reduce the nation to spectators then it’s a recipe for disaster,” Kanyenze said.
The major problem, he said, was that they were exhibiting symptoms of insanity where the same thing was done repeatedly while expecting different results.
He said also there was need to come up with a new policy programme in consultation with both domestic and foreign stakeholders.
Kanyenze said government needed first to get the basics right including adequate supply of clean water, hospitals with adequately stocked medicines and well capacitated city councils.
Former Economic Planning and MDC-T shadow industry and commerce minister Tapiwa Mashakada said that the government should have continued with the Medium-Term Plan and Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme.
The two economic blueprints were formulated during the four- year lifespan of the inclusive government.
He said the lack of funding for the ZimAsset policy blueprint was “an albatross around the neck of the policy”
“The lack of funding is the policy’s downfall because resources equal results,” Mashakada said. “There is no funding for the programme. It even dies before it is implemented. It remains on paper and cannot be rolled out.”
He said the government’s failure to recognise the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) was a major flaw of the document.
“The programme is digging its own grave,” Mashakada pointed out.
“It does not want to acknowledge FDI. FDI is downplayed as indigenisation is blown out of proportion.”
He said the policy would remain redundant as long as there is no multi-lateral funding and investment.