Cabinet battle looms over ZimAsset

…as command economic programmes spread

GOVERNMENT has virtually admitted that the country’s economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), has all but failed and is now dead in the water. This has prompted the introduction of stop-gap economic programmes to salvage a semblance of success from the discredited blueprint ahead of next year’s crucial general elections.

By Elias Mambo/Tatenda Chitagu

Zimbabweans are reeling under the serious economic meltdown characterised by a biting cash shortage and uncertainty.

Zimbabweans are reeling under the serious economic meltdown characterised by a biting cash shortage and uncertainty.

This comes at a time conflict is brewing in cabinet over ZimAsset and the “command economy” programme which some government officials are touting in the wake of what they claim to be a success story — command agriculture.
ZimAsset is anchored on free market economy enterprise whereas the command economy is a socialist relic in which the state as the main driver of production and distribution.

Some ministers say if the command economy is to be implemented full swing, it will undermine and displace ZimAsset without cabinet approval.

ZimAsset, which was derived from the Zanu PF 2013 elections manifesto, is mainly associated with the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and minsters such as Jonathan Moyo, who is a known critic of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa is the driving force behind the command economy programme, bringing a factional dimension to the conflict, although policy differences are also a major source of the problem.

However, there is consensus in government that the targets set under ZimAsset are now out of reach given the dismal performance of the economy since Zanu PF controversially won the 2013 elections.

The ambitious programme, which is supposed to guide the government’s economic development thrust until December 2018, requires funding of US$27 billion and, among other deliverables, aims to create 2,2 million jobs by 2018.

Under the programme, government projected 7,7% average annual GDP growth between 2013 and 2018, with peak growth targets of as much as 9,9% in 2018.

However, limited funding capacity, policy inconsistencies, an underperforming public sector and poor corporate governance, among other reasons, have hampered the programme, forcing the government to come up with crash economic programmes.
In an interview this week on the sidelines of a United Nations media workshop on development reporting in Nyanga, the director of implementation, monitoring and evaluation in the OPC, Anderson Chiraya, said government had reviewed downwards all the priorities of the ZimAsset clusters due to a lack of funding.

“Having evaluated that most of the things require funding and that we are only left with a year to 2018, government reviewed all the priorities downwards,” Chiraya said. “The blueprint has been reviewed for 2017 to 2018 and priorities have been scaled down so that we can achieve what we can manage between now and 2018.

“Government has had serious fiscal challenges and the bulk of the money to implement ZimAsset was supposed to come from development partners and this did not take place.”

Chiraya also said challenges which constrained ZimAsset implementation include, among many others, included “depressed economic performance and the liquidity crunch, lack of initiatives that could lower the wage bill and lack of effective policies for plugging revenue leakages and promoting accountability as persistently highlighted by the auditor-general.”

The results-based economic turnaround agenda, which was centred on the Zanu PF election manifesto, is built around four strategic clusters that were meant to enable Zimbabwe to achieve economic growth and reposition the country as one of the strongest economies in the region and Africa.

The four strategic clusters are: food security and nutrition, social services and poverty eradication, infrastructure and utilities, and value addition and beneficiation.

The climbdown comes at a time most Zimbabweans are reeling under the worsening economic meltdown characterised by a severe cash crisis and uncertainty over the bond notes which evoke sad memories of the traumatic Zimbabwe dollar era.

In its largely unrealistic 2013 election manifesto, Zanu PF promised to create 2,2 million jobs, but instead the country was hit by massive company closures and retrenchments. In addition, Zanu PF pledged to unlock economic value of US$1,8 trillion while pledging that the economy would grow by an average 6,6%, but this has proved to be pie in the sky.

The current economic meltdown is reflected by the high unemployment rate, which stands at a staggering 95%, according to the International Labour Organisation.

So far this year, at least 236 companies have shut shop, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

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