Zimbabwe’s prospects for 2014 – we need a miracle

I think we all want to see things getting better in Zimbabwe. There is nothing as painful as knowing that your country can do better and that it can be better managed. Zimbabwe continues to operate well below its potential simply because it is in the wrong hands.

The recent Zanu (PF) congress has not given me any hope that there could be something in the making. It was full of old and tired rhetoric clearly demonstrating that Mugabe no longer has the required intellect and energy to create a modern developed economy.

I have read the 129-page ZimAsset document and the first thing that strikes me is the reasons given for our economic decline. When you have a problem and you fail to define the problem, there is no way you can come up with sustainable solutions.

According to ZimAsset: “Zimbabwe experienced a deteriorating economic and social environment since 2000 caused by illegal economic sanctions imposed by the Western countries…”

Nothing can be further from the truth! Zimbabwe has dismally failed to exploit its resources for the benefit of its citizens because of the philosophies and values of those who have had political power over the last 34 years.

Let us be honest, we Zimbabweans have chosen the wrong economic policies over the last decade and these policies have destroyed value, created high unemployment and poverty. We must not continue to blame our problems on external forces because this disempowers us and limits what we can do.

In addition to the above, the corruption and greed that now permeates both our private and public sectors will continue to limit growth prospects.

How can a government that has driven an estimated 75 state enterprises to the ground begin to turn our economy around? The sad part is that ZimAsset gives the president’s office full responsibility for the policy.

The blueprint that is being hailed as our saving grace is nothing but a further attempt at state capitalism, where the state, Zanu (PF), seeks to strengthen its hand in the economy, and centralise decision-making and control.

In 2014, I expect a further deterioration in conditions, as unemployment and poverty increase. We are most likely to see liquidity constraints worsen and we have already seen how indigenous banks are struggling to survive. More are likely to close shop, as is the case with a significant number of companies.

Zimbabwe is no longer a formal classical economy, but a highly informal and survivalist one. We are unlikely to see any popular revolt simply because Zimbabweans have adopted a survivalist attitude and, as long as they can make a plan, political apathy will continue. It is therefore difficult to see where political change will come from in the short-term.

This leaves a huge responsibility with the MDC and other opposition groupings in the country. The question is; what can they do where there is no popular support for a revolution?

The other problem with ZimAsset is the key assumptions upon which it is based. The fundamental condition for it to be a success is for the country to have access to foreign direct investment and attract new cash inflows.

We can forget raising substantial revenue from tax because this base is reducing as companies close and retrench. There have been some silly suggestions that churches and the informal sector should be taxed. Now that just demonstrates the desperation of Zanu (PF) policy-makers.

In my opinion, until Zimbabwe is an open society where politics does not play a central role in the decisions we make as a country, where citizens are free to pursue their own ambition without limit and where the government plays a facilitation and not a dictatorial role in the economy, ZimAsset will remain a good idea on paper only.

The people of Zimbabwe must come first and they must be the drivers of socio-economic change. For far too long we have relied on the centre to lead and it is clear that the centre has failed. We need a miracle. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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