MDC, Zanu PF manifestos: Economists speak out

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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s two biggest political parties, Zanu PF and MDC, have presented manifestos crafted to win the hearts of voters in the July 31 election, but their strategies and policies are economically unviable, analysts say.

Like in many African countries, bread and butter issues and “politics of the stomach” will undoubtedly be some key factors determining the outcome of the impending polls as politicians try to sell the agenda of revitalising the economy ? still suffering a hangover from a decade long recession.

Economic analysts say both Zanu PF and MDC’s manifestos are mere strategies to lure the electorate’s support with no real solutions to Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the indigenisation of the economy will remain a key Zanu PF campaign strategy.

But right across the political spectrum, the report says, there is broad support for the 2007 Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which stipulates that 51 percent of all businesses must be owned by “indigenous” Zimbabweans, thereby ruling out foreign majority ownership, as well as ownership by indigenous, but minority, racial groups.

“The MDC takes a slightly more nuanced view: while supportive of the principle of indigenisation, it is committed to watering down legislation in an as yet unspecified manner, in the hope of making the law more investor-friendly,”

“However, both main parties are committed to increasing the contribution of natural resources, especially mining, to government revenue, either through nationalisation or higher taxation, including royalties.

“Holders of special mining leases do obtain 15 percent reductions in income tax rates, but can incur additional profits tax,” the report noted.

Christopher Mugaga, an independent economist, said the strength of the MDC manifesto is its outward approach to boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as opposed to the expropriatory manifesto of Zanu PF, which can only attract Chinese investors who are by any means not interested in transparency when it comes to business dealings.

Mugaga, however, said the threat to MDC’s manifesto is its failure to explain a tangible strategy to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and a clear cut solution to the land question.

“For instance how the Land Commission they champion is going to address the land issue which happens to be emotive and racial at the same time,” he said.

Mugaga noted that questions are abound including whether MDC is going to reverse the indigenisation policy and are emerging black-owned businesses going to survive the party’s pro-Western policies?

“Therefore, the MDC manifesto is full of uncertainty whilst Zanu PF’s is loaded with certainty but is harsh to investors,” said Mugaga.

He added that political risk will still be a factor if Zanu PF wins as the party “will remain intransigent to the demands of attracting FDI as long as the so-called sanctions are still in place.”

In setting the tone for the electorate the former ruling party Zanu PF plans to broaden indigenisation by unlocking nearly $2 trillion from exploiting idle assets when it wins the forthcoming harmonised elections.

According to the party’s manifesto, the indigenisation programme would result in the transfer of at least $7,3 billion into the hands of previously marginalised indigenous people.

However, the former ruling party argues that economic sanctions imposed on Mugabe’s henchmen may militate against their post-election efforts.

“The threats to the goals of the people include, but are not limited to poverty, corruption, the illegal and evil sanctions and the illegal regime change agenda sought by founders and funders of reactionary political parties that do not have any programme of their own and which are essentially anti-people and pro-crisis not least because they have defined themselves as enemies of Zimbabwe’s heroic liberation struggle,” reads Zanu PF’s manifesto in part.

“The full implementation of the indigenisation and people’s empowerment reform programme by the people’s government under Zanu PF will tackle the scourge of poverty by enabling Zimbabweans to break out of its crippling cycle,” it added.

But analysts say failure by Zanu PF to effectively deal with corruption, among other challenges and ills, for the past 33 years has become a thorn in the flesh both in central government and the public sector could also be a time bomb for the country’s political leaders.

On the other hand, MDC makes a list of promises that it hopes will help it garner the votes.

The party points out that it recognises that Zimbabweans are suffering and it hopes that its economic plan ? Juice (Jobs, Upliftment, Investment Capital, Environment) — will steer Zimbabwe towards a stable, growing and inclusive economy based on the rule of law.

Their plan is aimed at creating one million jobs by 2018 and a $100 billion economy by 2040.

However, Mugaga said MDC’s promise to create one million jobs in five years’ time “is an exaggeration as this feat can only be attained over a 12-year period on average”.

“Tsvangirai’s strategy of reopening closed companies is commendable but I don’t see him creating above 15 000 jobs per annum due to the limitation of dollarisation which will be present for about five years on average,” he said.

“The creation of jobs is a function of strong economic policies which will attract FDI, for Zanu PF manifesto its hope that empowered nationals will create jobs but I don’t see how that will happen with a fragile Zimbabwe banking sector without appetite to lend post-election with Mugabe in power,” added Mugaga.

He further added that a major source of disappointment is none of the two parties talk about Debt Resolution strategy which is an overt symptom of failed philosophy of how to move the economy forward.

Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloch also said that one of the incontrovertible prerequisites of meaningful economic recovery is that this year’s elections be irrefutably free and fair, including that there be very substantial oversight of the conduct of the elections by reputable and undoubted observers.

“This will ensure there is restoration of investment security, in order that substantial FDI is forthcoming,” said Bloch.

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