This week we look at the centrality of human capital as a critical catalyst for sustainable economic development and growth. Human capital development is complex but critical to economic growth.
Human capital refers to processes that relate to training, education and other human capacity building initiatives in order to increase the levels of knowledge, skills, abilities, values, and social assets of the citizens of any country. Differences in economic growth across countries have become closely related to cognitive skills and unless we focus on developing these, we will remain underdeveloped operating way below our potential as a country.
In addition, human capital development must consider issues of health and wellness for all citizens so that they may live up to their full potential in their life time. Zimbabwe suffered significantly with the brain drain of health professionals which has contributed to the dismal delivery of health services throughout the country. Access to health services has diminished, is expensive and this is exacerbated by the lack of medicines. The rural population has suffered most and our social indicators have deteriorated significantly compared to pre-independence.
Universal access to affordable basic medical care for all, improving child mortality rates, investing more in primary health care and nutrition are therefore part and parcel of a successful human capital development strategy
A highly developed human capital base will be the source of comparative advantage in the twenty-first century global economy. Human capital, or the education, skill levels, and problem-solving abilities will be the competitive advantage of nations because they enable individuals to be innovative and productive in a highly competitive global economy. It is therefore essential for us to invest in this if we are to be a competitive nation in the future.
Zimbabwe is well known for its high education standards of the past but as a country, we have failed to maximise on our education dividend. Millions of Zimbabweans have left the country in disgust because a ZANU (PF) government has failed to create economic freedom, new opportunities and a democratic environment which protects citizensâ€™ rights allows them to pursue their ambitions in a free society.
In addition ZANU (PF) has destroyed our economy leading to high levels of unemployment of citizens who have skills to offer. But more important, our economy has remained a primary producer and unfortunately continues to compete on the basis of factor endowments, with growth dependent primarily on low-skilled labour and natural resources. This limits opportunities, incomes and wealth creation potential for our citizens.
We have to move our economy up the value chain to a more efficient and innovation-driven economy if we are to create a sustainable economy that attracts and retains skills. A vibrant private sector is therefore key for creating jobs, producing and marketing sophisticated goods and services, and latching on to regional and global value chains.
Zimbabwe has become a predatory state under ZANU (PF) where a struggle political elite has deliberately stifled political and economic freedoms. Predatory states do not possess a human capital developmental mind-set, but seek to arrest at every turn, the emergence of a vibrant and innovative free society characterised by a sophisticated and empowered middle class. They seek to retain political, economic and social hegemony at the expense of social development.
As PDP we have the opportunity to unlock Zimbabweâ€™s potential by implementing policies that enhance our human capital capability. The four key areas we must focus on are; re-inventing our education system with high impact investment in science and technology, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation by funding research and development of new technologies, products and services, provide broad and affordable access to health and wellness especially primary health care and dealing with poverty to create an enabling environmentÂ where all our citizens can live up to their full potential in this life time.
Over and above this, the role of technology in accelerating human capital development cannot be ignored. The developed world is now dominated by brain-intensive industries. These require significantly different skills than the past. Asia is a clear example where reinventing new products and perfecting new production processes has created significant economic growth. Zimbabwe can do the same.
We intend to create a government that prioritises access to education at all levels of society. Primary schooling should be compulsory and free up to grade seven. Secondary education must be provided to those who excel while it will be important to ensure that from that level, no resources are wasted through a one size fits all approach curriculum as we have seen in the past.
It will be important to widen choices at secondary level so that we can identify talented students early enough and channel them in the right direction. We will also do our best to destroy the myth that everyone must be a graduate. Zimbabwe needs technicians and entrepreneurs, sports people and arts and culture practioners and it will be important to offer these opportunities at secondary level.
At tertiary level, we will emphasise technology and science degrees so that we can create citizens that can fit into our developmental priorities. It is our intention to ensure that no student who excels is denied further education at tertiary level. Government must therefore provide grants and loans to all students who are accepted at our universities. This was the case immediately after independence.
We must also encourage distance education since it is estimated that almost 80% of students fail to go to university for various reasons, the main one being affordability. E-learning is also critical to create broad access to quality education.
We must provide quality education at all levels, deal with HIV and AIDS pandemic, raise the status of technical and vocational training and institute policies that seek to absorb unemployed graduates in the workforce.
We will also strengthen research institutions to support our developmental priorities particularly in agriculture, alternative energy, new technologies, in medicine, computing, food science manufacturing and mining sectors.
The issue of gender equity must also be addressed through an education policy that gives equal access to the girl child to education opportunities starting early at primary level. Women make up the majority of our population and their empowerment reduces the potential of major social ills in the future and thus minimises the related long term social costs.
The rapid expansion in urban populations due to the decimation of the rural economy is occurring without expansion in basic services and productive employment opportunities. We need to improve deteriorating infrastructure, increase service delivery capacity, reduce overcrowding, curtail environmental degradation and reverse acute shortages of housing and productive jobs. These are critical human capital development issues.
Added to this will be the necessity to attract Zimbabweans in the Diaspora back home so that they may be involved in the development of the country. We will need to incentivise them to come back. We must promote economic freedom in the country and create an environment of entrepreneurship and risk taking. This can only happen if we ensure that there is the protection of private property and intellectual capital.
Lastly we must deal with poverty and food security issues. No country can maximise its human capital without providing the basic needs for its citizens. Social safety nets are therefore critical to improve the quality of life for all citizens and to enhance our human capital development potential. We will establish a social welfare regime that is inclusive and focuses social interventions to assist the disadvantaged and the marginalised.
Zimbabweans in general have faced massive abuse by a ZANU (PF) government and it is important that we change the political paradigm of abuse to that of creating an inclusive culture which values people as assets.
PDP will put people at the centre of development and ensure that the maximum number of our citizens are provided with opportunity and a better quality life style so that they may live up to their full potential. We have much to do!
Another Zimbabwe is possible.
PDP Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs