21 February 2014

Zimbabwe: New Thinking Badly Needed

editorial

WHILE it is common cause companies have been closing down and retrenching at a disastrous rate, particularly after President Robert Mugabe's re-election last year, latest reports by the ZCTU that at least 75 firms failed to open in January after their annual shutdowns, rendering 9 617 people jobless, are sobering.

The figures were arrived at after a survey of 15 of ZCTU's 30 affiliate unions.

ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said company closures were mainly affected clothing, engineering, furniture, metal, textile, agriculture, commerce and catering as well as the pulp and paper sectors. In the agricultural sector, since January, eight farms were acquired and on five of them, 890 farm workers lost jobs, he said. About 300 workers are being retrenched every week.

Zimbabwe is facing a severe liquidity crunch which has exacerbated companies closures, retrenchments, unemployment and poverty.

The new disclosures follow a July 2013 Nssa Harare regional employer closures and registrations report for July 2011 to July 2013 which showed 711 companies in Harare closed down, rendering 8 336 individuals jobless. The latest reports on company closures are not just bad news, but tragic. It shows the economy is fast collapsing after the elections while Mugabe and his government watch hand-wringing and clueless. They have no idea what to do.

However, beyond Mugabe's catastrophic leadership and policy failures, something now needs to be collectively done, urgently. Zimbabwe's stakeholders must act to stop this fatal haemorrhaging before the economy crumbles further with devastating consequences.

The visit of renowned Norwegian development economist Professor Erik S Reinert to Zimbabwe from Sunday to March 1 for meetings with the local academia, industrialists, trade unionists and government representatives must help kick-start serious dialogue and the way forward on reviving the economy.

Reinert has written extensively on issues of innovation, economic development, and the history of economic thought and policy. Having for many years owned and managed a manufacturing company with production in three different European countries, he blends economic theory, real world experience, and deep historical knowledge of past development strategies.

Reinert's cutting-edge book How Rich Countries Got Rich. .. And Why Poor Countries Stay Poor - a must read - has been published and translated into 18 languages.

Having been at work in 53 different countries, Reinert's approach focuses on the importance of national context in the creation of economic policies. He also says modern technologies sometimes make it possible for developing countries to "leapfrog" in the developmental path.

Zimbabweans policy-makers must also progressively and innovatively think outside the box to rebuild the economy and country, not to create reckless chaos and destruction as they have done through illiterate economics and ill-informed policies in recent years.

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