The Brett Chulu Column
ON August 21, Zimbabwe’s Treasury produced a comprehensive self-assessment of the performance of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).Ncube, last week, in an interview with the
Zimbabwe Independent, reiterated the points of success Treasury outlined on August 21.
With few new details, on Monday this week, Ncube repeated the same points of success to editors he had invited in Harare. There were important areas that were omitted.
This article will highlight these areas in the interest of balancing the review on the TSP. The balance is essential so that the performance reviews of the forthcoming National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025), the successor to the TSP can be improved.
Government deserve to be applauded for carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the strategy (TSP) it set out to implement and going a step further to publish this self-assessment.
It’s an important step towards establishing a culture transparency, a central pillar of democratic governance. This article argues that the framework Treasury used to organise the TSP review was not the best; it resulted in key omissions and created one-sided reporting.
The TSP was a self-assessment — a self-assessment needs to be balanced so that areas of under-par performance are surfaced in order to strengthen future performance.
A balanced and more meaningful review of the performance of a strategy better done when the assessment is grouped around the strategy framework the organisations chooses to build its strategy, namely vision, mission, values and strategic objectives. The path of least resistance organisations adopt in conducting and documenting reviews of the performance of their strategy is reporting on activities. The TSP review, to a greater extent seems to have fallen into this trap.
In evaluation Treasury’s TSP self-assessment, we will seek to answer the following questions:
To what extent did the TSP contribute towards attaining Vision 2030?
To what extent were the overarching pre-stated objectives of the TSP met?
To what extent were the values contracted to guide behaviours that support the implementation of the TSP applied?
What picture emerges when this framework of enquiry is leased?
The TSP’s mother lode was Vision 2030. This strategy end-point should have been explicitly addressed. The TSP review did not attempt to address this basic requirement. As per the World Bank, for the year 2021, an upper-middle economy is one that has achieved a per capita Gross Domestic Product of US$4 046-US$12 535. The original TSP document does not specify the per capita GDP band aimed at.
This is problematic in that the upper-middle income limits are frequently reviewed by the World Bank. The TSP set out the respective per capita GDP targets for 2018, 2019 and 2020 as follows: US$1 720, US$1 883 and US$2 081. It is surprising that the TSP review by Treasury is completelysilent on the out-turns of per capita GDP targets.
It’s a fundamental omission, the equivalent of reporting on a soccer match, giving detailed descriptions of the facets of the match but fail to report on the score line. The World Bank reports Zimbabwe’s per capita GDP for 2018 as US$1 684 and that for 2019 as US$1 464.The TSP missed the targets for 2018 and 2019 that would be the required rate to achieve the Vision 2030 target.
In fact, Zimbabwe experienced a declining per capita GDP. With a projected GDP decline of 10,4% for 2020, Zimbabwe will experience a decline in per capita GDP over the TSP period. Facts before us land us at the conclusion that Zimbabwe is way off the Vision 2030 target. This omission, whether by mistake or design, has made the TSP official review unbalanced. The more substantive issue is disposable incomes versus prices of essentials.
Some civil servants’ salaries are equivalent to the medical consultancy fees. This a simple indicator to show that we are still a way off Vision 2030.
TSP objectives met?
The original TSP document listed four “objectives”. Though the TSP stated the four points as objectives, they failed to meet the professional structure of an accepted objective by general monitoring and evaluation standards as well as widely accepted strategic planning standards. One basic and glaring error in structuring the “objectives” was stating attainment of projects as objectives – this is confusing a strategic objective with a strategic activity.
The TSP progress assessment report states seven TSP “objectives” verbatim as follows:
Laying a foundation for private sector led growth that is sustainable and shared/equitable;
Further democratisation of the country;
Normalising international relations;
Public/social services delivery; and
The nation was not informed that the TSP objectives had been reviewed and modified. We are not told in the TSP progress review why the macro-economy and financial sector stability “objective” was watered down to macro-fiscal stability. The private sector led growth “objective” was embellished to add the quality of expected growth as being shared.
The infrastructure gaps “objective” was changed to infrastructure development. The quick wins “objective” was totally expunged from progress review as an objective. Three new “objectives” were introduced in the progress review; normalising international relations, public/social services delivery and social protection.
It’s only fair that we assess the TSP performance from the base of the original objectives.Has the TSP brought macro-economy stability and the financial sector?
Primary fiscal deficits are reported to have replaced by primary fiscal surpluses.
The extent of those surpluses, if they do exist is not beyond dispute — several quasi-fiscal expenditures such as the gold incentive (now terminated) were not recorded as fiscal expenditures. Essential social services have not been given adequate funding despite Treasury claiming primary fiscal surpluses.
What is overlooked in the fiscal stability discourse in Zimbabwe is that Zimbabwe is still experiencing fiscal deficits because government, is hardly servicing interest obligations (Treasury claims token payments are being made) on foreign sovereign loans.
Ncube is on record as saying budget surpluses would be channeled towards productive assets. In the TSP review, Treasury says the surpluses are being used towards social safety nets — there is no breakdown on how much of the surplus was allocated towards productive endeavours.
Inflation is slowing down mainly as a result of government allowing partial but official dollarisation, having done a volte face on the unilateral banning of use of foreign currencies on June 24 of 2019. Inflation is projected to close the TSP period in December at above 400% year-on-year inflation. Forex rates volatility has slowed down significantly following the introduction of the Dutch forex auction system, banning of dually-listed international stocks on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
We still need the benefit of time to assess if the slowing down of inflation and forex rates stability is sustainable.
l To be continued next week
Chulu is a management consultant. — firstname.lastname@example.org.