Political mayhem disrupts economy

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Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (left) talks to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John

Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the United States, says nations do not need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to charting a path to sustainable prosperity.

Zimbabwe Independent Comment

Clever countries can adopt meaningful reforms by learning from the successes and failures of others to deliver socio-economic progress.

Sachs makes a vital observation that, in the long history of economic development, eighteenth-century Britain learned from Holland; early nineteenth-century Prussia learned from Britain and France; mid-nineteenth-century Meiji Japan learned from Germany; post-World War II Europe learned from the United States; and Deng Xiaoping’s China learned from Japan.

A nation’s ability to glean from the experiences of others is usually determined by many factors, but the most critical ones include the calibre of leadership, strength of institutions, and the citizens’ willingness to take charge of their own destiny. As reported on Page 12 of this issue, the recently released 2016 Global Prosperity Index report, compiled by London-based research group Legatum Institute, confirms just how much Zimbabwe has regressed in the community of nations on issues of socio-economic development. Despite being endowed with vast natural resources, world-class human capital and some of Africa’s best farmland, Zimbabwe, ranked 119th out of 149 surveyed nations, is wallowing in poverty — and the reasons for this are plain to see.

Zimbabwe’s man-made disaster is astonishing. According to the United Nations, 72 percent of the population live below the national poverty line (living on less than US$1.25 per day). And yet — here is the tragedy— this country has more than 40 different minerals, including the world’s second-largest proven platinum deposits and 13 million tonnes of gold that are waiting to be exploited.

President Robert Mugabe’s government never wastes an opportunity to brag about the nation’s impressive achievements in placing the education sector at the heart of the development agenda in the 1980s.

What they conveniently fail to acknowledge is that it was really the hard-working taxpayers and dedicated parents who made immense sacrifices for the sake of education. But even then, the nation has failed to translate its much-vaunted education credentials to a decent quality of life. Zimbabwe is today the biggest source of economic refugees in Southern Africa. “Despite having the biggest prosperity surplus of the region in the education sub-index, Zimbabwe faces severe challenges affecting particularly the business and political spheres in its path towards prosperity,” says the Global Prosperity Index report.

The researchers have identified the nation’s toxic brand of politics as a major impediment to the attainment of prosperity. Volatile politics is anathema to economic development. Disputed elections, gross human rights violations and a turbulent political climate are hampering this nation from fulfilling its huge potential. “Securing a solid and efficient political environment remains key to successfully lifting the country out of this unstable situation.

The necessity of encouraging investment, as well as the need to efficiently cope with one of the most severe droughts of the last decade, represent Zimbabwe’s major limits to prosperity delivery,” adds the Global Prosperity Index report. The message is loud and clear: to attain prosperity, Zimbabwe must first reform.

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