HARARE – Zimbabwe’s economy is on the brink.
A report by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries says capacity utilisation for the manufacturing sector has markedly declined since the July 2013 elections.
In 2012 it stood at 44,9 percent and is now down to 39,6 percent.
Another report by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) says between July 2011 and July 2013, 711 companies folded in Harare alone, resulting in 10 000 job losses.
But perhaps the grimmest sign that the economy is off the rails was the failure by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to make a budget statement as was expected after President Mugabe set up a new government.
Chinamasa told members of Parliament at a workshop in the resort town of Victoria Falls that the government was broke and that he would not be presenting a budget to Parliament.
Zimbabwean citizens would have found the MPs’ lampooning of Chinamasa as the “minister of Finance without the finance’ funny but they did not. This is because this is a matter of serious national concern and Zimbabweans have had enough of this life of penury.
Faced with this harsh economic reality, one would have expected Zanu PF policy wonks that drafted the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset) document to think outside the box in crafting a blueprint that would chart a path towards creating a conducive environment for recovery and sustainable growth.
What many Zimbabweans expected was a framework for industrial revival and job creation. Sadly Zim Asset fails this simple test and will not get Zimbabwe’s economy out of the rut.
The biggest problem is that Zim Asset is predicated on self-serving propaganda that Zanu PF has been feeding Zimbabweans ad nausea.
What the drafters of the document seem to forget is that elections are over and Zimbabweans are expecting food on the table and not excuses.
The assertion that “Zimbabwe experienced a deteriorating economic and social environment since 2000 caused by illegal economic sanctions imposed by the Western countries…” is a red herring that must be rejected with the contempt it deserves.
While such blatant lies are tolerable in a party campaign manifesto, it is unacceptable to have them in a national policy document that is supposed to help extricate a country from economic collapse.
Serious Zimbabweans who are committed to making this country work again will know that Zimbabwe began experiencing economic decline in the second half of the 90s, the zenith of which was the so called “Black Friday” of November 14, 1997, when in one day, the Zimbabwean dollar lost more than 70 percent of it value.
International financial institutions had already raised the red flag on Zimbabwe, thanks to Mugabe’s populist policies of awarding unbudgeted for gratuities to veterans of the liberation struggle and participating in a costly war to prop up Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sanctions were only imposed after the violent elections of 2000 and 2002. It is therefore shameful for the drafters of Zim Asset to tell blatant lies in a document that purports to be enunciating national public policy.
Let us for second go with the Zanu PF lie that sanctions are at the centre of the myriad challenges that confront us today.
One would have expected that Zim Asset would spell out a plan for countering the sanctions or limiting their damage.
Sadly there is no such plan except a single sentence that makes reference to Zimbabwe pursuing “import substitution industrialisation”.
For the record, import substitution industrialisation (ISI) means the country would reduce its import bill by producing products that it would ordinarily import.
So instead of spending billions on importing tractor spares from China for instance, we would make our own, a herculean task given the perilous state of our manufacturing capacity.
The reason why the drafters of Zim Asset do not go beyond that single sentence in their reference to import substitution industrialization is that they know that Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector is dead and we are importing even paper clips and rubber bands from other countries.
Was it not George Charamba himself who was excoriating the CZI in his abusive Nathaniel Manheru column for failing to invest in new technologies in Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector?
Another problem is that Zim Asset is not grounded in empiricism as its drafters glossed over important key statistics. Take the growth projections for example. Zim Asset predicts a very ambitious average growth trajectory of 7,3 percent, which is not backed by any explanation of how it will be achieved.
One wonders how a government that currently cannot pay its bills will achieve 3,4 percent growth in 2013, 6,1 percent in 2014 and 9,9 percent by 2018.
A table with thumb sucked growth rates for various sectors of the economy is presented but no one bothered to explain how those figures were derived.
Zim Asset’s proposals for the agricultural sector are a sick joke.
The same failed strategies that have resulted in the country going from Africa’s bread basket to a basket case are recycled.
Instead of addressing the biggest problem confronting the agricultural sector, which is that of land being rendered dead capital by the absence of security, the authors of Zim Asset regurgitate the same tired mantra of “government support to agriculture”.
This was tried under Gedoen Gono’s profligate farm mechanisation programmes and it yielded nothing.
Zimbabwean legendary musician Thomas Mapfumo called it kurima nzara. What the agricultural sector desperately needs is a framework that will restore its status a business.
A business requires capital to be viable and banks are only going to provide capital where there is security of tenure. Zanu PF’s 99 year leases have not done so.
The drafters of Zim Asset seem unsure whether this is a national policy document or a party campaign manifesto. Their inclusion of a “presidential inputs support scheme” in a national policy document is baffling.
We know for a fact that in the run up to the elections Mugabe used the same scheme to source money from his dodgy allies to shore up his support.
That the same scheme is now contained in a national policy document is scandalous.
If public resources are being allocated to agriculture, why should they be part of a presidential program that benefits only Zanu PF members and supporters?
If resources for the scheme are privately sourced why should they be included in a public policy document that is supposed to benefit all citizens regardless of political affiliation?
More worrying is Zim Asset’s deafening silence on the democratisastion and reform agenda.
One would have expected that this government would put in place measures for building a social contract with the citizens but it seems ZANU (PF)’s hubris and triumphalism have blinded it to the need for a governance framework that gives citizens a voice.
Finally Zim Asset is shrouded in ideological ambivalence.
On the one hand the document espouses the idea of using ‘its own local resources, which are in abundance and readily available for full exploitation and utilization’, while on the other it proposes engaging bilateral and multilateral funding partners for support.
The same incongruity is evident in the badly drafted indigenisation policy which has been interpreted differently by ZANU (PF) officials.
This ideological ambivalence has confused investors and this has not been helped by other populist pronouncements, including the banning of foreign investment in sectors that are said to be reserved for locals only.
After reading Zim Asset one gets the impression that those in charge of running this country are clueless about what is wrong with it and what needs to be done to get it working again.
The drafters of Zim Asset skirted the real problems and as a result the solutions they prescribe are anachronistic.
This is hardly surprising given the recycling of the same old and tired brains we witnessed when the President announced his cabinet four months ago.
Until the ZANU (PF) government demonstrates a commitment to democratic reform by fully implementing the new constitution, reforming state institutions and putting in place measures for fair and equal political participation, it will remain a pariah and will not attract international support and investment, which are critical for the country’s recovery.