Quick fixes for economic recovery

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Ignatius Chombo

There is always a high level of expectation from the citizens that comes with leadership transformation at whatever level.


Muchesa Chatsama,Training consultant

Zimbabweans recently witnessed and indeed participated in the process that culminated in the ushering in of “new” leadership in the form of the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, having gone for close to four decades with only one man at the top.

It was a long overdue change. In fact, change was just needed regardless of how it came and that is why the military found it easy to escape the coup label. This desperate need for change of presidency is just indicative of the people’s deep seated desire for improved fortunes. This inevitably places what I can term “crisis of expectations”.

Zimbabweans want change and they want it like yesterday. Therefore, Mnangagwa and his team do not have the luxury of a grace period. In fact, it was apt for him to say he will “hit the ground running” and that “it will not be business as usual”. The load placed on him resonates well with such statements and the better he follows them with action, failure which he can become a victim of his heroism.

He also said a lot of other things to which most Zimbabweans ululated and clapped for. Mnangagwa’s challenge is how to satisfy the people’s hyper expectations. To me the answer lies in what I can call “quick fixes”, those low hanging fruits that can easily be grabbed without one climbing the tree. In this piece I will enumerate and elucidate some of these.

Firstly, let me point out that Zimbabwe does not require a blue ocean strategy, at least from my standpoint. As a thumb suck, I can say about 50% of our challenges have to do with attitude and behaviour challenges, a kind of entrenched and lackadaisical approach to doing business that has created serious inefficiencies in critical institutions. Solving these problems does not necessarily require fresh capital injection. It is that demonstration of commitment and preparedness to change that is sought.

Creating efficiencies in government institutions does not necessarily require funding in the short term. It is all about telling people to do what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it.

I have written before in this column that “even if it means being ruthless to those evidently getting in the way of progress”, let it be. A Machiavellian strategy might be justified when it comes to performance. Indeed everyone must “earn their hour, day, week and month” and “it must not be business as usual”. This is a quick fix and change must already be noticeable by now in terms of government services turnaround times. There is no excuse for not doing things.

A customer-centric methodology must be adopted whereupon government staffers must see those who require their services as customers. It is the public that requires those services that make them (civil servants) relevant in those offices. This is consistent with Mnangagwa’s proclamation of “servant leadership”. Occupiers of government offices must always aspire and perspire to inspire before they expire. For business approach in government and quasi government institution not to have changed so far is inexcusable.

Zero tolerance on corruption again is largely a behavioural issue. For decades the media has reported massively on corruption.

That obviously provides the starting point to deal with this vice. It is shocking that since the historic change of leadership, former finance minister Ignatius Chombo is the only high-profile figure who has been brought before the courts on corruption charges.

If Mnangagwa wants to be perceived as being sincere on this issue then the net must be cast wider. The speed with which Chombo was arrested and tried on corruption must be demonstrated elsewhere as well. As it stands, people can be excused for thinking the arrest and subsequent trial of Chombo had nothing to do with his ill-gotten wealth, but rather a mere settlement of political scores.

Apart from the arrest of the former finance minister there is nothing signifying the government’s seriousness on corruption save for the usual “zero tolerance” mantra on various political, social and business fora. By now several investigations must have been evidently instituted. That not much activity has been done so far with regards corruption is starting to eat into the public confidence with the new leadership. Action speaks louder than words, goes the old adage. Again, this is a low hanging fruit that only requires behaviour and attitude change. Action against corruption cannot be deferred. It is an issue requiring attention like yesterday.

Related to issues of corruption are the various Mildred Chiri-produced audit reports. These reports always provide recommendations for addressing unearthed irregularities. Again, the only thing required is implementation of the audit results. This is another quick fix and by now Zimbabweans must have started noticing substantial activity in various government institutions whose audit reports are available. This is what it means to “hit the ground running”. What I am simply asking is: what is the defence for non-action?

In 2013, following the adoption of ZimAsset as the national economic blueprint, the Integrated Results-Based Management (IRBM) system was adopted as the official management tool in government and quasi government institutions. This is a proven tool for results whose benefits have not been harnessed.

I am not sure how many government related institutions have fully embraced IRBM and whether those that did are using it properly. Do they fully appreciate the system? IRBM is a clear opportunity for getting results. I suggest ministers demand joint performance contracts immediately. No excuses should be acceptable. That is what it means when we say not business as usual.

All contracts for top public officers must be performance based with clear targets which are quantifiable to eliminate subjectivity when it comes to assessments. I suggest those contracts must not exceed two years after which reviews are done. Those whose results are proven must have their contracts renewed whilst those falling short must be chucked from the system. Therefore, full implementation of IRBM is yet another quick fix. Once results are seen, confidence levels improve with the multiplier effect of attracting capital. It is that simple.

Other quick fixes that can be tapped into include the various commissions’ reports whose recommendations have not been applied or, in some cases partially executed such as lands audit report and the Nziramasanga report. All these can win the new government the hearts of the people whose lives have been adversely affected due to poor governance over the years.

In as much as capital inflows are required, it must be noted that these quick fixes have a multiplier effect. By actioning these, confidence is created which, in turn, attracts investors.

As it stands, there appears no significant shift from the old order. Without really justifying the recent price increases, one can be forgiven for concluding that it shows a lack of confidence. Now for the government to keep negotiating for price negotiations is not sustainable going forward. Price increases are an indication of faulty macroeconomic fundamentals.

Like I said above, Zimbabwe does not require a blue ocean strategy. Applying basic economic principles is enough for turning around the economy. It is those small little things that matter. Let us do those elementary things.

One advantage that Mnangagwa has is that he has full knowledge of what has been happening in the economy, having been in the same system that created the challenges for the past 37 years. That mere knowledge should help him come up with the precise diagnostics and the subsequent curative prescriptions. It is like a doctor who has the full knowledge of a patient. That doctor would obviously not repeat the medication that has been administered before, unless of course the ailment is associated with new conditions or maybe a new drug would have been developed.

Chatsama is the leading organisational development and training and leadership development consultant with ProSource Global Consultants. He is an expert in strategy and policy design. These New Perspectives articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society. E-mail kadenge.zes@gmail.com and cell number +263 772 382 852.

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