A primer on Zimbabwe’s economic blue-prints

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Business Writers
Zimbabwe’s economic blue-prints introduced since independence in 1980 have not been effective in achieving their set targets due to poor implementation, with the exception of the current Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) economists havesaid.

From the National Development Plan (NDP) in 1986, ESAP of 1991, National Economic Development Strategy in 2008, STERP and now Zim-Asset, Zimbabwe has crafted economic policies to create employment, enhance production and competitiveness of local products and ultimate GDP growth.

But, economists argue that corruption, lack of coordination between the private sector and Government, coupled with poor implementation have rendered some of the policies ineffective.

Economist Dr Gift Mugano said some of the economic blue prints were not given enough time for implementation and phased out before achieving their set targets.

Others however such as the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) which was a five year programme, was disengaged from the prevailing economic situation as this was a policy imposed by the Bretton Woods Institutions.

“ESAP was sold to Zimbabwe by the West and did not work in our favour. It was borrowed from Korea, which had capacity to stand the competition unlike in our case,” he said, adding the country quickly privatized some companies “too early.”

ESAP was implemented to boost growth and create jobs. Then the issue was the removal of subsidies and the decontrol of prices to free up the market. International capital funded the programme. However what would bring about sustainable economic growth even at that time was restraint on expenditure and bringing the budget deficit down by directing spending to capital rather than recurrent expenditure.

Again those are still the same problems the country is facing now.

The late Ariston Chambati said that government had embarked on ESAP when the economy was still in reasonable and manageable shape.

The ESAP period also saw interest rates sky-rocket and laid “the foundation for economic problems,” which were experienced in the 1990s into the hyperinflation period in 2008.

Zimbabwe Economic Society president Lovemore Kadenge concurred that the major setback in blue prints achieving their set targets has been poor planning, implementation and lack of coordination between Government and the private sector.

“We have come up with very good policy documents, but good ideas have been badly implemented due to corruption and lack of coordination between Government and the private sector.

However, there are some positives that have been recorded in the economy driven by some of the policies that were  introduced.

Mr Kadenge cited STERP, which was launched during the Government of National Unity era which saw capacity utilization in various industries improving.

“There was good rapport between Government and private sector during those days. Again, because of the nature of the Government then, there was checks and balances to ensure accountability,” he said.

Dr Mugano said launch of the current economic blue-print, Zim-Asset has addressed some of the deficiencies that existed.

The Zim Asset has four clusters that were identified as key enablers to economic recovery such as the food and nutrition cluster.

Initiatives such as the command agriculture programme, which has already seen Zimbabwe achieve increased production in grain, directly supports the food and nutrition cluster.

“We have achieved a lot under Zim Asset, The President announced a ten point economic plan, which simplified Zim-Asset.  This identified the low hanging fruits, revitalizing agriculture which is now supported by command agriculture.

“There was also emphasis on creating an enabling environment and to date, Government has been implementing Rapid Results Initiative to promote ease of doing business,” said Dr Mugano.

He cited the competition of the Tokwe Mukosi Dam, although its development started many years ago, it was expedited under the Zim-Asset programmes, coupled with major road rehabilitation programmes such as Plumtree-Mutare highway.

Economist John Robertson said that all economic programmes amounted to nothing more than wish-lists and the wishes were not fulfilled.

“Even the very first, the Growth with Equity Plan, was to tell the world of our wish that they would be generous with aid. Many of the pledges made were not kept and that was mostly because we kept on talking about turning Zimbabwe into a Marxist-Leninist State.”

Robertson said that only the ESAP programme made an impact, “but it quickly turned into a negative impact.

“It came on the back of the Trade Liberalisation Programme, which is another for your list. This was initiated a little earlier by the World Bank and it started the removal of import licences and foreign currency allocations.

This was completed by the IMF by the end of 1993. But ESAP caused those who had been making money by reselling import licences to demand compensation for their lost incomes.”

Robertson said that Zimbabwe needed a recovery programme that will convert government from its interventionist and domination role into the role of facilitator and investment magnet.

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