Re-engagement and a shared value system at centre of Zim’s prosperity

BY ESTHER MAPUNGWANA

In compliance with the Section 7 (2) (a) of the Public Finance and Management Act, Finance and Economic Development minister will be presenting a mid-term 2021  budget review and a 2022 budget strategy paper.

The mid-term budget review is envisaged to highlight broadly the current and projected state of the economy, performance of the national income and expenditure and any major changes that could impact on the economy, among other macroeconomic variables.

The Budget Strategy Paper serves as a key instrument under the top-down component of the Medium-Term Budgetary Framework outlining the aggregate revenue and expenditure projections for the next national budget.

The Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) is supposed to help achieve aggregate fiscal discipline and it constitutes  a valuable tool meant to guide consultative discussions and sharing of ideas on national priority policies, programmes and projects for the forthcoming National Budget.

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) has always pushed for and facilitated the inclusion of the diverse range of Zimbabwean voices and interests in all public finance and resource allocation processes.

This ensures a closer alignment between economic governance and the lived reality of Zimbabweans. In this regard Zimcodd was requested by the Ministry of Finance to provide inputs towards the 2021 Midterm Budget and Economic Review and the 2022 Budget Strategy Paper. Not wanting to leave anyone behind, Zimcodd held a multi stakeholder meeting to include citizens’ views in their inputs.

Based on most of the contributions that came from the meeting, Zimbabwean citizens feel that most of the submissions that have been presented to government over the years are not being implemented, for example, the  value-addition of raw materials, rule of law, strong enforcement of the laws with regards to revenue leakages and corruption, efforts towards debt servicing seem to be minimal, as well as efforts towards reengagement, privatisation of parastatals, public private partnership, among many other issues.

Vince Musewe, an independent consultant, made a presentation at the meeting on developing and supporting productive value chains anchored by infrastructure, ICT, and digital economy he started his presentation by saying, “Zimbabwe’s problems cannot be solved by the same mindset that the country had when the problems started; as a nation there is need to look at the solutions from a different view point. The issue is not about the allocation of resources or the quantum that is available but the social impact the resources have in a nation.

“The minister of Finance has been announcing budget surpluses and that Zimra has exceeded revenue targets yet the general population is still in poverty making these so-called successes meaningless. Economic growth is not only about figures it is about the impact the growth has on human development and social wellbeing. There is currently no measurement of the social impact of the national budget which is very vital for the real progress of the country.”

He added that, building value chains, infrastructure development, optimising the value of natural resources, embracing the digital economy and devolution of economic power  are key to the growth of the country and should be considered in the strategic papers, however, he strongly stated  that “the reason why there has been slow or stifled progress in the country is because corruption has been normalised in the country and there is no shared values between political leadership, citizens and the private sector. As long as corruption is not dealt with, these contributions will continue to be a formality of brilliant ideas that have no tangible results”.

Youth representatives also gave their strong views and contributions . They emphasised that there is need for a unified ideological approach on the way forward for Zimbabwe.

One Zimbabwe National Students Union-Zinasu (Zinasu) representative said, “Zimbabwe is taking more of a neoliberal approach, which  is not fair, as it is exclusive. We need a socialist approach  in Zimbabwe. Social protection is key, especially during this Covid period, where the more vulnerable citizens are at risk of losing their livelihoods.”

“The minister of Finance needs to use a multi-dimensional index to measure progress in the country and not just the GDP as it is not all inclusive. He also needs to look at the real issues on the ground to talk to the people at the grass roots and hear their voices. Government reports say that there is bumper harvest in the country yet the WFP  would  give another report on the number of households facing hunger in the same country. Government needs not to sugar coat the situation in the country. The minister needs to be realistic and not to  fool the world because this will not help the country.

“Let us be realistic and engage within as a country before we go out there and discuss what our issues are and come up with real solutions applicable to our culture, nature and weakness as a people. Let us not lie to ourselves that things are good to please the outside world when the majority of the people, especially in the rural areas, have very little representation  in these issues and are suffering”, contributed Learnmore Nyamudzanga an independent research consultant.

Other participants indicated that the budget needs to consider investing in structural reforms, capacitating the office of the Auditor-General, capacitating the parliamentarians to effectively play their oversight role, incentivising teachers so that they go back to schools and teach the children, investing in public private partnerships in housing development and other infrastructure development projects .

Different technocrats and African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad) consultants also gave their technical contributions, which included the following points:

  •  Restructuring the economy to create an inclusive economy;
  •  Capacitating foreign embassies and rejoining the Commonwealth for re-engagement;
  •  Finalising the funding of white farmers compensation;
  •  Retraining and re-orienting civil servants and resolving the national debt issue;
  •  Macro-economic policy must undo multiple pricing systems;
  •  Inflation measurement must inculcate the duality of the economy;
  •  Forex market must embrace market forces;
  •  Unitary pricing system;
  •  Growth stimulating interventions (productivity and  demand);
  •  Public debt management (servicing and reducing borrowing);
  •  Improve the governance of mineral resources through the implementation of initiatives such as the AMV;
  •  Mineral resources revenues should contribute to the national fiscus and be transparently appropriated to key sectors such as health, education, social security;
  • There is a need for capacity and technology to monitor extraction and determine the quality of natural resources and to negotiate contracts more effectively;
  •  Use of advanced technology to monitor airports and borders to ensure smuggling of gold and other minerals out of the country is curbed;
  •  Custom officials, ZRP minerals unit and airlines need to improve their systems in identifying risks, vulnerabilities and exposure to illicit financial and minerals flows; and
  • Transfer pricing units situated in Zimra and the financial intelligence unit situated at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe must be adequately staffed, and financially resourced so that they become more effective.

The conclusion of the matter is that, these contributions will remain good ideas if there is no shared values and national dialogue, if there is no political will, if the leadership continues to say we are well or doing well, while we are not. The Zimbabwean problem is not a government problem, it is a national problem and all the citizens need to be involved in solving the problem.

As a country, we cannot continue to sing the same song that corruption, rent seeking behaviour and all these other illicit problems are our problem yet there has  been very limited efforts  to tackle the issue from a citizens’ perspective.

Citizens and the private sector need to be watchdogs over their resources, they need to strategically engage the government and have serious conclusive dialogue on the matter of corruption and come up with strong enforceable measures towards this cancer that is preventing economic growth and poverty alleviation. As long as there is no unity of purpose and a shared value system with regards to fighting revenue leakages and corruption, Zimbabwe’s prosperity story will remain a pipedream.

Mapungwana is a local independent and consultant. These weekly New Horizon articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society  and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe. Email: kadenge.zes@gmail.com/ cell: +263 772 382 852