Will Zimbabwe’s LIMA strategy work?

In September 2015 the Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, issued a document titled Zimbabwe’s strategies for clearing external debt arrears and the supportive economic reform agenda.

Reform is painful ... Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa

Reform is painful … Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa

The supportive economic reform agenda stated in that document includes; the strengthening of confidence in the financial services sector, accelerating re-engagement with the international community, revitalising agriculture, advancing beneficiation in or value addition agriculture and mining, focusing on infrastructure development, unlocking small to medium enterprise potential, improving the investment climate, accelerating public enterprise reform, modernising labour laws and aligning of laws with constitution and dealing seriously with corruption.

Now these ideas sound great but we need to honestly consider whether they are achievable at all given from whence they come.

In my opinion, if we had a government serious about change and able to implement these ideas with the gravity and urgency they deserve, these reforms could probably turn around the economy. But the question we really need to ask is whether ZANU(PF) can allow such an ambitious program to go full speed ahead and to achieve its stated objectives in the shortest possible time? The answer to this question is no.

Our experience in Zimbabwe shows us that we have had brilliant but badly executed ideas for quite some time because of lack of good political leadership, the curse patronage, hidden motives and conflict of interests within government and especially within ZANU (PF) itself.

A clear example is the irrational exuberance of Patrick Zhuwao on the threat to close down companies while on the other hand Chinamasa wants to improve the business climate. These are essentially conflicting objectives which will remain the major barriers to progress. We cannot therefore take ZANU (PF) seriously.

In my opinion, it will be a miracle to get multipronged and coherent policy implementation from a ruling political party which is in so much disarray, is basically paralysed, dysfunctional and unproductive.

The brutal truth is that as long as Mugabe is at the helm, we can all forget that change will come soon. The obvious incentive for ZANU (PF) and Mugabe now is to buy time towards 2018 and make promises and issue blueprints and strategies while doing nothing to fundamentally change our direction. In other words, it is highly attractive for them to be seen to be doing something but actually do nothing in the end.

It was a sad spectacle listening to Mugabe recently. He should rather give history lectures and live us young Zimbabweans to shape a future that he can’t probably imagine right now. Why can’t those in ZANU (PF) accept the reality that the solutions we seek for a new Zimbabwe can no longer come from this man?

Our critical success path must include the rule of law, getting financial services right and reviving the agriculture sector. If I were the minister of finance, I would focus on these key areas. The benefits of positive change in these three areas could certainly cause the chaos theory phenomenon to come into play and thereby positively affect all the other economic sectors without us trying to do many things at once.

The IMF has encouraged the Zimbabwe government to take some bold and ambitious steps but in my opinion, the political headwinds are just too strong for the economy to sail in the right direction in the short to medium term.

Even if we were able to pay the $1, 8 billion to key development partners and get a loan in the last quarter of the year, as suggested by the RBZ (which apparently has since been refuted by the IMF). That will not help much because from 2017 ZANU (PF) will be getting into election mode and it is most likely that priorities will change and the economy will be in the back burner once more.

I still think the idea of an inclusive transitional authority makes sense. This would reduce the unnecessary political drag we are experiencing against any substantive economic reforms, focus the country on getting the political environment right first through irreversible political reforms, while putting into place some stop-gap economic emergency  package and measures for the short term to arrest the socio-economic disaster we are facing.

Our challenge is therefore to create the necessary conditions for ZANU (PF) to come to the table screaming. Short of that, as I said above, the LIMA strategy document is an attempt by ZANU(PF) to be seen to be doing something reasonable while actually doing nothing.

Of course this is one instance where I would love to eat my words (they make a healthy diet anyway) because our country has been put in a truly desperate situation by ZANU (PF) and I pray that something gives.

Another Zimbabwe is possible.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. He is also the Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs for PDP. You may contact him on [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this article are his own personal views.

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