21 April 2006

Zimbabweans Need Shared Vision to Achieve Economic Turnaround


Harare — ON Wednesday, Economic Development Minister Mr Rugare Gumbo announced the new economic blueprint aimed at stabilising the economy within the next six to nine months.

The time was around 4:30pm. The venue was, of course, the Presidential offices at Munhumutapa Building. We all made ourselves comfortable in the new boardroom waiting for the arrival of the dignitaries. The media fraternity was there for a Press briefing. Also in attendance were Cabinet ministers and the captains of industry and commerce. After some informal exchanges, we took our seats with everyone anxious to find out what exactly the new economic rescue package entailed. Could this be just one of those ill-fated economic blueprints that have been launched with so much fanfare in the past, but failed to yield the desired results, I wondered. I'm sure my misgivings were shared by my media colleagues. But, after listening to what Minister Gumbo had to say I had good reason to believe Zimbabwe was on the threshold of a new era. President Mugabe gave a hint in his address to the nation at the Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday.

In his address, the President acknowledged t hat Zimbabwe's economy had suffered from the effects of drought and sanctions, resulting in shortages of food, medical drugs, electricity supply and steep rises in prices of basic commodities. "In response to these challenges, Government has adopted the National Economic Development Priority Programme to stabilise the economy in the next to six to nine months by focusing on food security and increasing agricultural production, foreign currency generation and mobilisation through the full utilisation of the idle capacity in all sectors of our economy, accompanied by aggressive marketing of Zimbabwe as a conducive investment destination," President Mugabe said. Minister Gumbo, who chaired the Press conference, started by chronicling the background to NEDPP, which took him close to 30 minutes. As he went through the document, all faces were filled with great enthusiasm.

One couldn't help the feeling that the new plan would completely change the face of the economy. From the cap tains of industry led by Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Patison Sithole, to the ministers -- among them Dr Herbert Murerwa, Mr Didymus Mutasa, Mr Kembo Mohadi -- and the Reserve Bank governor Dr Gideon Gono, it was just what the doctor ordered. Mr Gumbo did not monopolise the Press conference but opened it to his colleagues to add their voice to the new document jointly crafted by the Government and the private sector. After the conference, my mind was refreshed. I was filled with renewed hope that our economy can be revived within a very short space of time, not completely turned around, but we expect some positive developments. The perceptions that I had before have completely vanished. I thought disappointingly that I have not been playing my role, either in my capacity as a journalist or as a patriotic Zimbabwean to help revive the economy. Forget about foreign currency shortages or inflation hovering over 900 percent, our economy is still vibrant and requires a little push to bring it back to its former glory. However, the biggest challenge, and one that could undermine the noble goals of this document, might be lack of commitment by stakeholders in particular and Zimbabweans in general.

There is need for shared vision and to adopt unity of purpose. It's high time we buried our differences and start working towards a common goal. Yes, on paper, the NEDPP, is quite excellent just like -- I suppose -- itspredecessors, but effective and collective implementation is the key, anchored by a common vision. Implementation should not be left to President Mugabe or his Vice Presidents, Ministers Gumbo and Murerwa or Dr Gono but should be embraced by the totality of all Zimbabweans, who should join hands and pull in the same direction. Everyone has a role to play if we are to turn around the economy. It cannot be a singular task, but everyone should have a sense of commitment. We have the resources -- natural and human -- and nothi ng can stop us. Already, some pessimists are dismissing the document as being too ambitious but from what I gather, this time around, things are going to happen.

One mate said the US$2,5 billion expected in investments and cash within the next three months is unachievable given that this figure has not been raised over longer periods. However, from what I heard on Wednesday, measures are already in place to ensure the goals are achieved. The drivers of the programme will be held accountable and they have promised not to let the nation down.

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