Stimulus for Zimbabwe

By Tom Woods and Roger Bateelen_johnson_sirleaf.jpg
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirlief

There is no question that the people of Zimbabwe need immediate relief.Of the country's 12 million people, at least 4 million have fled; amajority of those who remain require emergency food assistance. Allschools and hospitals remain shuttered. Donors are leery of sendingmoney to government coffers for fear it will simply buttress thecorrupt rule of autocratic President Robert Mugabe. While some donorsmay opt instead to direct aid through nongovernmental organizations,bypassing the government entirely, this is a short term, band-aidsolution that does little to reinforce accountable rule.

Liberia faced a similar challenge in 2005. Strong bipartisan andinternational support for assistance existed, but the transitiongovernment had its hand in the proverbial cookie jar. The United Statespushed for the creation of a Liberian Governance and Economic andManagement Assistance Program (GEMAP), which controlled diamond,timber, and other revenues coming into the government's coffers so thatfunds were fully accounted for and could not be embezzled to Swissbanks or allocated to corrupt activities.

The program also included strict transparency and oversight ofexpenditures. Internationally recruited advisers were placed in keyministries and required to cosign with Liberian officials for majortransactions. GEMAP faced protests about usurped national sovereignty,especially from politicians or businessmen who had been cut off fromtheir corrupt schemes. But in the end, it helped restore sovereigntywhere it belonged: to a government required to answer to the needs ofits people.

In April 2008, Antoinette Sayeh, then Minister of Finance for Liberia,praised GEMAP for helping to improve transparency and performance ofstate-run enterprises. Since 2003, GEMAP and the reforms it helpedengender have enabled the United States to provide more than $750million for Liberia's reconstruction.

While Zimbabwe has been spared the grinding, violent conflict thatalmost destroyed Liberia, its economic collapse has created a similarcrisis. Basic infrastructure such as electricity, roads, reliablepotable water, and communication networks no longer exists. And whilesome officials may look to the private sector for salvation, the oddsare not in Zimbabwe's favor. Speculative investment, in a destroyedeconomy, run partly by an authoritarian dictator, during a globaleconomic downturn, is a tough sell at best. Any investor venturing backinto Zimbabwe will favor quick returns and a speedy exit strategy,which is not likely to improve the life of the average Zimbabwean. Bychampioning transparency for money raised and spent, ZEMAP would helprestore confidence and perhaps enable the return of long-term privatecapital.

By guarding against corruption and cronyism, ZEMAP represents animportant first step towards long-term regulatory reform. A bloatedretinue of ministers and deputy ministersnow numbering 71, the largestsince the country gained independence from Britain in 1980willcertainly be tempted to use their new roles for personal gain; ZEMAPsafeguards could help ensure that they do not.

Encouraging the engagement of Western donors, including the EuropeanUnion and the United States, would diversify Zimbabwe's sources for aidand advice. This is important because the MDC must remain wary of helpfrom South Africa, which has at every step of the way sided withPresident Mugabe. Mugabe-era concessions for the country's rich mineraldeposits to China, Russia, and South African companies need to bereevaluated, and international advisers (independent of thesecountries) could help.

Zimbabwe's power-sharing arrangement should be viewed as an imperfectand temporary solution to a profoundly unstable political andhumanitarian situation. Transparent and internationally monitoredelections should be pursued in the shortest timeframe possible andshould be linked to any foreign assistance. The ZEMAP concept would bea temporary measure aimed at helping donors meaningfully engage withministries such as education, finance, and health controlled byTsvangirai's MDC.

Day-to-day life is desperate for average Zimbabweans, but circumstancescould get worse: the state could fail and violent conflict could ensue.To ensure that does not happen, the coalition government must engagewith the donor community to create transparency and accountability inthe funding it receives and spends. Most importantly, violators ofpower sharing must be exposed and punished. GEMAP worked in Liberia,where wait-and-see approaches to assistance were not an option. AndZEMAP, we urge Tsvangirai, just might work in Zimbabwe.

Tom Woods is a senior associate fellow in African affairs at theHeritage Foundation. He helped create Liberia's GEMAP while deputyassistant secretary of State for African affairs. Roger Bate is theLegatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at the American EnterpriseInstitute.

The American

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