31 January 2013

Zimbabwe: A Prosperous Zim Begins With You


Over the past three weeks this column has played host to submissions by some stakeholders on their take for the economy this year. A lot of issues have been raised and possible solutions proferred as many express their desire to see the economy flourish.

Last week, the European Union head of delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell'Ariccia weighed in with his thoughts stressing the need for value addition and diversification of the export basket.

Over-reliance on primary goods and minerals could see the unpredictable movements in the international prices for commodities. The global financial matrix is still somewhat unstable and the resultant low demand has had a bearing on this country's economy.

Platinum and gold did not fare badly though last year and hopes are that the two will consolidate their perfomance as the global financial outlook improves as expected. Zimbabwe, said Mr Dell'Ariccia, also needs to up its game and increase trade with the 27-member EU which he said has largely been affected by poor performance by the local agricultural sector and the economic mayhem witnessed in the EU.

What has come out of the debate is that there is so much that can be done to fend off current challenges and Zimbabwe and its people have the wherewithal to initiate and superintend over such processes.

The country's human capital and its natural resources base have the potential to transform this economy into a powerhouse on this continent. Zimbabwe has the brains resident here and in the Diaspora while the 49 mineral deposits the country is endowed with can combine to take the economy to the next level.

Suggestions have been made to come up with think- tanks for every sector of the economy as a strategy to address issues impeding growth while ensuring that performance in the respective sectors is optimised.

These think-tanks should obviously include technocrats and other stakeholders well versed with operations so they can bring to the fore practical solutions to challenges besetting their specific areas. Some of the challenges, for instance in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, are well documented, but the think- tank will need to seperate reality from perception and come up with ways of handling challenges in these sectors.

Why is the manufacturing sector continuosly limping? What kind of machinery and new technology is required? What can be done to widen the manufacturing base? How can the issues of funding be addressed?

What arrangements can be made between Zesa and this sector to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity? These are some of the issues that the think-tank can help address.

While such policies as the Budget Statement have benefited from extensive consultation processes, not every process in the economy is as informed or appraised, hence the need to have consultative platforms that can yield results. These think-tanks can also be such forums.

The National Economic Consultative Forum has not been very visible lately, but we would want to believe that the body has been at work and can help spearhead research into the specific sectors with the aim of jump-starting those that are dead while giving impetus to some that are making limited contributions to the economy.

We are not sure if the industrial policy launched last year is in force, but it is one instrument that could effectively guide progress and ensure results are achieved in the shortest possible period.

The agricultural sector continues to suffer from drought or excessive rainfall in some instances, but policy issues and the sector and operational challenged need redress. This sector feeds the manufacturing sector and other segments of the economy also depend on it for their welfare.

Productivity levels need to be increased while investment into agro-processing should be sought as noted by Comesa Business Council secretary-general Mr Trust Chikohora last week.

The mining sector is already contributing the most in terms of export earnings, job creation and investment. However, it is still far from realising its potential and we hope a think-tank for the sector will unravel deep-seated issues in the sector that constrain further growth.

Parastatals need serious attention. It's about time that a thorough audit is done to bring out the challenges afflicting these entities, be they govenance issues, operational or structural. If the economy is to make real progress, such entities as the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Zesa, Air Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Water Authority, among others, have to be on their feet. Bickering or lethargy by parent ministries is detrimental hence the need for proper audits to ascertain their state and hence corrective action must be taken.

While these think-tanks are at work, we would expect the anti-corrption broom to sharpen its bristles so that the costly vice is dealt with decisively. Is she dreaming? some maybe asking. But the truth is Zimbabwe demands a total shift of the mindset and change of behaviour by public officials, private sector players and civil society in general if we are to witness sustainable economic growth.

President Mugabe is in a no-nonsense mood about corruption and we should all take a cue. No system, economic or otherwise, will produce optimal results if infiltrated by corruption. For Zimbabwe the situation is still redeemable. It only requires a shift of the mindset.

One can actually go and get a passport without oiling of hands while competitive documents can win a tender without anyone asking for and being paid a kickback. Its so normal and so progressive!

Over the next few weeks we will be interrogating several aspects of the economy such as parastatal reform, the Diaspora factor and many such topics to intiate debate on issues that will take the economy forward.

Next week we begin by revisiting the Air Zimbabwe issue. We thank God the airline is back in the skies. We now must focus on what needs to be done to make sure that when its lands, it can take off again as scheduled.

It should never be grounded again. But what are the dynamics behind its challenges? These issues and more will be brought to the fore and debated on this platform.

Zimbabwe should easily achieve the 5 percent GDP growth target or even exceed it if we apply our minds and energy to it.

In God I Trust!

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