Elections, wrong priorities detrimental to the economy

Natural wisdom and elderly advice since time immemorial emphasised the need on making the right priorities and acting on them. Conversely, there seems to be a tendency and obsession by the government and opposition parties to focus on elections at the expense of bread and butter issues affecting the generality of Zimbabweans.

Nhamo Kwaramba

Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa is the lone voice in the wilderness, warning the people of the impending danger owing to misplaced policies. The minister is having a hard time getting his colleagues in government to align their policies and actions to addressing the economy. He recommended a raft of measures that were fiercely criticised, yet they could have addressed the poor economic performance of the country. How government operates at times leaves one wondering whether advisors to President Robert Gabriel Mugabe are genuine cadres or opportunists who are bent on misleading the aged leader on the situation on the ground. At a time when the economy is on a free fall, it was shocking to have 14 more government ministers appointed in the cabinet, bringing the total number to around 72 ministers.

Zimbabwe is a relatively small country with approximately 14 million people. Against such a background, the number is just too big. A country like South Africa with a population of 52 million has almost a similar number of ministers. Under the current circumstances, it would have been better to cut on the number of ministers and focus on other areas of importance. Many officials who are appointed have very little to show at the end of their terms of office in government. It is high time that cabinet ministers have performance contracts which are evaluated after every six months and published for the public to see. They must feature on radio and television to answer questions from the general public in the same way they are required to attend parliament question and answer sessions.

A bloated cabinet is not the panacea to the problems bedeviling the economy. Zimbabwe is a very small country that does not need more than 10 ministers. This is because they are deputy ministers, resident ministers in provinces, permanent secretaries in ministries, directors and deputy directors and other positions which draw a lot of money, that can be better channeled for better service provision. There are many issues that need to be attended to which are affecting the industry. The country is experiencing excessive power cuts which go on for more than six hours. This is bad for companies that are in heavy manufacturing. In some cases, they end up producing substandard goods and suffer machine breakdowns and inefficiencies due to untimely power cuts which grind all operations to a halt without notice.

Health issues have been neglected. Many hospitals and clinics do not have adequate medication for patients. The facilities are deteriorating and worsening the plight of patients who are left at the risk of contracting other communicable diseases or infections. The workers are demotivated and the service rendered leaves a lot to be desired. A visit to any of the public health institutions in the country bears testimony to this sad state of affairs. In the midst of all these challenges, politicians need to understand that when elected into office, they have a duty to address the needs of the people. Sadly, this is not the case for many a Zimbabwean politician. It is unhealthy and retrogressive to be always in election mode all the time.

It now appears as if we are already in 2018. There is a lot of jostling taking place in the political arena. A few years after 2013 elections, a number of political parties have emerged.

These include the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ) led by Elton Mangoma and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti and People First Party being led by the former Vice—President Joice Mujuru, not to mention many others like Zapu, Mavambo etc. Instead of suggesting and proffering solutions to the current economic situation, there is more talk of wanting to lead than to fix the economy, offering jobs, attracting investment, create a level field for business to operate, addressing corruption and resuscitate industries. The purpose of being in government is to address macro-economic fundamentals and ensure that people live a decent life. The best any government can do to repay the trust bestowed upon it by the electorate, is to work and fulfill its promises.

The government of Zimbabwe has a track record of coming up with plans. These include the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) in 1990, the Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (Zimprest, launched in 1998), ZimAsset 2011-2015 and the 10 point plan introduced by Mugabe a few weeks ago. Whilst some are sound on paper, they end up failing to see the light of the day and die a natural day. There is need for the government to follow through on the various plans and offer the best it can to its people.

According to various international finance institutions, Zimbabwe is among some of the worst foreign investment destinations in the world owing to stiff indigenisation regulations, the high cost of setting up a business and an unpredictable political environment. The country also tops the list of the world’s most corrupt countries. As if that is not enough, the country is ranked second poorest country in the world. The statistics are debatable and questionable but how does Zimbabwe fare against all these factors? Is it better than the picture depicted above?
Kwaramba is the principal executive consultant for Capacity Consultancy Group. These New Perspectives articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society. E-mail: kadenge.zes@gmail.com. Cell +263 772 382 852.