SINCE former president Robert Mugabe was toppled in a coup last November, there has been a lot happening on the economic front. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have shifted focus to the economy, away from Mugabe’s toxic politics and its harmful consequences.
The “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra has brought hope the economy will bottom out of the doldrums, recover and grow provided there is the right leadership, policies and governance.
However, despite Mnangagwa and his officials’ hectic grappling with the economy, one thing has been conspicuously missing: an economic development plan. There is no model to guide the recovery agenda; it is largely ad hoc policies being haphazardly thrown around. There is no holistic plan on the table.
What is government’s economic development plan? Is there any framework which guides their policy choices, actions and implementation? Where is blueprint? Or rather when it is coming?
Government needs this because economic development has a direct relationship with the relevant context and environment. Whereas economic development is a policy intervention endeavour to improve the economic and social well-being of the people, economic growth is a phenomenon of market productivity and a rise in the GDP.
For these to happen, a plan is needed. Going around picking up samples, not even models, in Rwanda and elsewhere without a plan is not helpful. It leads to a scatterbrained and incoherent approach. While government is doing the right thing now, in fact making the right noises, the trouble is that it has no sustainable plan.
Hence, you have authorities who want to pursue free market economy policies, while still clinging to awkwardly named programmes like command agriculture. Command models in this day and age? This shows there is simply no policy depth, clarity and coherence in government.
That is also why some officials waffle in public, for instance making ridiculous claims like the first 100 days of Mnangagwa’s rule was a massive success. In what way when the government does not even have a blueprint, performance indicators and deliverables to measure that? Ministers have been submitting some sub-standard documents and meaningless projects, including archaic ones, claiming they are evidence of success. Some of these officials are clearly wallowing in a groundnuts economy mentality, entangled in snake-oil policies and strategies taking us nowhere.
Part of the problem is not that ministers and government officials do not want to work – of course there are many lazy and corrupt ones hibernating within the moribund bureaucracy – but that they just do not know what to do. They are employed on patronage grounds; well above their levels of competence. Mnangagwa seems well-meaning, at least judging by his passion and drive, but he has no sufficient intellectual, technocratic and technical competencies and hard-workers around him. Government needs an all-encompassing model, blueprint and plan to achieve economic growth through higher productivity. It must address reforms, governance issues, human capital and proper functionality of state institutions that are able to address more technically and logistically complex governance tasks. These will determine the state’s capacity to manage the economy, public administration and society. Busybody politics and daydreaming won’t change anything.