ED regime deliberately deceiving nation in its vision of an “upper middle income economy”

Whenever I listen to even the most senior government officials lay out the country's economic vision, I am always left wondering whether they themselves actually understand what this is, or are deliberately deceiving the nation into a false sense of optimism for a much higher standard of living.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

There is Shona street lingo to the effect that, “usade kunyerepa kudzungaira” – in other words, we do not want those who pretend to be confused and ignorant, in the hope of misleading others, or deceiving them.

A case in point is the repeatedly regurgitated mantra by the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration, of “an upper middle income economy by the year 2030″, or ” Vision 2030″.

Nothing wrong with a country aspiring for rapid development, right?

Indeed, but it becomes a huge problem when the very government meant to drive and usher that development, behaves as if unsure, confused, and even intentionally dishonest in what exactly this vision entails.

How many times have we heard top government officials, state-media journalists, and ruling party supporters make reference to an “upper middle class economy”, or “upper middle income society” – which are both far divorced from the stated official goal of an “upper middle income economy”.

Are these discrepancies motivated by shear ignorance, or a well-crafted desire to give the nation deceptive hope for a brighter more opulent future for all?

Let us be unambiguously clear – the Mnangagwa regime’s official position, in its NDS1 (National Development Strategy One) is for an “upper middle income economy”.

What does that mean?

The World Bank classifies the world’s economies into four groups, based on gross national income (GNI) per capita: high, upper-middle, lower-middle, and low income countries.

The GNI, previously known as gross national product (GNP), is the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country, consisting of gross domestic product, plus factor incomes earned by foreign residents, minus income earned in the domestic economy by nonresidents.

In other words, the GNI per capita becomes the total earnings of what the nation produced divided by the total population.

“Upper middle income economies” are those with a GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of more than US$4,125 but less than US$12,736.

“High income economies” are those with a GNI per capita of US$12,736 or more.

Currently, the group of “upper middle income economies” consists of Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Brazil, China, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tunisia.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is a “lower-middle-income economy” – which, in 2020 had a GNI per capita of US$1,090, just hovering above the low-income country threshold – and, whose extreme and lower poverty lines are most glaring.

As much as these economic rankings are a reflection of a country’s performance, they can be quite misleading as these are calculated on averages, and the figures do not necessarily reflect the income of individuals.

Therefore, a country can record very impressive GNI per capita numbers – and, even be categorized as an “upper middle income economy” – but, this income limited to only a few, with massive gaps between the “have” and “have-nots”.

South Africa is a good textbook example – which is a typical “upper middle income economy”, yet the discrepancies between the rich and poor are thoroughly unsettling – with those who “have” being filthy rich, and on the other end of the spectrum, the vast majority being some of the poorest people on the entire African continent, who cannot even afford to buy a small house of their own.

This is a fact that the fundis in our government are fully aware of – thus, their attempts at confusing this with talk of an “upper middle class economy”, or “upper middle income society ” – two scenarios totally different from an “upper middle income economy”.

In the United States, the “upper middle class” is defined as consisting of white-collar professionals who have above-average personal incomes, advanced educational degrees and a high degree of autonomy in their work, leading to higher job satisfaction.

The occupations that characterize the American “middle class”, include many jobs that predated the market revolution, as well as a few that were created as a result of it.

A list of “middle-class” occupations would include physicians, lawyers, educators, merchants, and ministers.

For high earners, a three-person family need an income between US$106,827 and US$373,894 per annum to be considered “upper-middle class”.

Those who earn more than $373,894 per annum, or US$31,158 a month, are considered rich.

For any sane person in Zimbabwe to honesty believe that by the year 2030, most of us will be earning an average US$31,158 per month is the height of delusional thinking!

Let me give another example, already the country is classified as a “lower middle income economy”, with a 2020 GNI per capita of US$1,090 – yet, how many of us earn anywhere near that figure, with most civil servants receiving less than a net salary of US$80 a month?

Is it not undeniable that a country’s GNI per capita – or, whether it is a “lower or upper middle income economy” – has absolutely no reflection or bearing on individual citizens’ standards of living, and the majority of Zimbabweans can actually be poorer in 2030 than we are today, in spite of actually achieving the “upper middle income economy” goal?

I pray that the people of Zimbabwe not be hoodwinked by this incessant talk of an “upper middle income economy”, as if that will be the end of our misery and impoverishment – because, that is not the case.

It can only be good news had we a government genuinely committed to the equatable distribution of the country’s vast wealth – which, is undoubtedly not the case under the Mnangagwa administration.

As it turns out, we have a regime that is notorious for its grand looting of our national resources, for the benefit and enrichment of only a handful, mostly aligned to the ruling elitist clique.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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