Mnangagwa now has to prove himself

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Faith Zaba

NEWLY-elected President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a daunting task to transform the economy from ground up and uniting a divided nation.

Editor’s Memo Faith Zaba

Mnangagwa, who took over from former president Robert Mugabe last November after a military coup, inherited an economic wasteland that will take decades to correct. This requires a complete reversal of bad governance policies, a competent and efficient cabinet, as well as civil service, a shift in attitude and work ethic by government and fiscal discipline.

He has to deal with the moribund economy ravaged by critical foreign currency shortages, escalating cash woes, over 95% unemployment levels, rising inflation, which some economists believe is over 25% — much higher than the official 4,29%, comatose formal sector and endemic, worsened by systematic corruption.

This is in addition to the structural challenges characterised by high public indebtedness driven by persistent deficits and uncontrolled rise in public expenditure, weak public institutions, poor infrastructure, dwindling income and capital inflows.

While he hit the right note in his inauguration speech on Sunday, he needs to walk the talk — the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Mnangagwa made numerous promises which he said government will deliver during his five-year term.

He pledged to turnaround the economy, eradicate corruption, cut out government bureaucracy and create jobs. He said now that the elections are over, it was time for the country to unite and for all political parties to work together to find solutions to the country’s economic dereliction.

Mnangagwa said his administration will implement radical economic reforms targeted at attracting and facilitating foreign and domestic investments, in line with the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

There will be a number of benchmarks to be used to measure his success. Economic performance ranks top among them.

Transforming the economy, undoubtedly Mnangagwa’s main hurdle, will determine whether he is any different from his predecessor. Poverty levels in Zimbabwe remain high, resulting from pathetic policies that marginalise the poor.

As economic analyst Proper Chitambara pointed out in an article in this edition, “economic growth must be translated into productive employment growth, which is a key nexus between growth and poverty reductions. It has been demonstrated that economic growth does not necessarily ensure poverty reduction and development but only does so when it is accompanied by a rapid expansion of productive employment”.

Mnangagwa has, since taking the reins, been talking about corruption and the need to improve the ease of doing business.

In his speech on Sunday, he was unequivocal about rooting out corruption — now festered and woven into the country’s fabric, costing the nation billions of dollars in lost revenue. Zimbabwe is ranked 157 out of 180 on corruption, with a score of 22% in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 by Transparency International.

As Brett Chulu, in an article titled New govt must tackle corruption, published in this edition, states that there is an indissoluble link between corruption in the public sector and ease of doing business.

Chulu points out that the higher the ranking on ease of doing business, the higher the probability that the country is less corrupt. Zimbabwe’s ease of doing business score is 48,7%. In this country, it takes 36 days to register a property and nine-and-a-half days for the border documentary compliance time to import.

Mnangagwa needs to be swift to improve the ease and cost of doing business to effectively deal with corruption.

He has to do as he promised when he said: “My administration will therefore expect public sector officials to deliver quality and timely services to the people as well as facilitate business, trade and investment. Bureaucratic bottlenecks, unnecessary delays, lethargic and corrupt activities will not be tolerated. The prosecution of perpetrators of corruption will be carried out without fear or favour.

“In the Second Republic, no person or entity will be allowed to steal, loot or pocket that which belongs to the people of Zimbabwe. No one is above the law. This is a New Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe we all want.”

We hope he acts on graft without fear or favour to show his commitment.

As the cliché goes, talk is cheap and now Mnangagwa has the golden opportunity to prove to the nation and the world that he has more bite than bark.

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