The Short Term Emergency Response Programme (STERP), the pros and cons –By Lloyd Msipa

OPINION – The Short Term Emergency Response Programme (STERP) launched by President Robert Mugabe and the finance Minster Tendai Biti in the last few days is a welcome effort in an attempt to get Zimbabwe as a country working again.

Its reference to fundamentals that include Political and Governance issues, social protection, democracy, respect for property rights, rule of law, the redistribution of power among the genders among other principles it seeks to espouse makes it useful as a working document.

The document also makes reference to stabilisation of the economy by targeting inflation, by way of increasing agriculture and industrial output.

The document also seeks to deal with the issues of national healing and nation building. The document also recognises that apart from the travel bans placed on some of the leaders in government, sanctions are in place that prohibit international financial institutions from making any dealings with Zimbabwe, let alone extending any credit facilities that would have allowed the country to borrow in order to finance none humanitarian projects that will in turn impact positively on the economy, hence growth.

The document sets out the position of the government with regard to the sanctions in place. In this light representations are being made to the Americans with regards to the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic and Recovery Act (ZIDERA), to International Financial Institutions like the IMF, World Bank, AFDB, and the European Union and also to our former coloniser the United Kingdom.

The document further outlines its policy considerations, as it seeks to get Zimbabwe working again. It extensively looks at areas such as health, social issues among many others. The bill for funding this programme between now and December will be US 5billion dollars. Acknowledgement is made of the recession and its impact on liquidity and borrowing and its attendant impact on remittances from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, who have also found the going tougher due to the recession.

However, what the document does not address is what will happen in the event of the various institutions being approached refuse to play ball. What is our plan B in the event that America, Europe and the various lending institutions refuse to extend to Zimbabwe any form of credit as is the case now.

Within 24 hours of the announcement of the STERP programme by both the finance Minister and president of Zimbabwe, the Americans where the first to respond negatively and stating in no uncertain terms that they were not ready to engage Zimbabwe despite the inclusive government in place, lift the sanctions currently in place on Zimbabwe, let alone extend any form of assistance to the country that is not humanitarian.

The European Union also parroted the Americans and refused to recognise the authenticity of our inclusive government and hence will not be extending any form of assistance that goes directly to our national coffers . The IMF team that was in Zimbabwe in the last few weeks also placed conditions that include the payment of arrears before any form of assistance can be extended to Zimbabwe among other conditions.

Considering the foregoing, were does this leave us. Where does this leave STERP. Maybe we need to be more inclusive in our approach to fixing Zimbabwe. STERP seems overly reliant on Zimbabwe getting money from our traditional lenders. Is it not possible that our traditional lenders are currently grand standing? They are giving us the traditional run around by repeatedly pointing to our ‘flawed’ inclusive government as the main reason they will not fund us. Is it not possible that America and Britain do not genuinely have the money to fund us and will not say so?

America recently unveiled an inward looking stimulus package that seeks to jump start the American economy by creating jobs in America at the expense of the rest of the global village. American companies that had relocated to third world countries where labour is cheaper are currently being encouraged to relocate back to America as a way of job creation. The United Kingdom is also seeking to address the economic crisis which has seen 2 million people lose their jobs over the last few months by redrafting the immigration laws hence discouraging any new entrants in to the British job market.

The approach of the economic giants in the west is all inclusive. They seek to first look after their own before they consider anyone else.

It is in the back drop of these developments in the global village that I find it very myopic for us in Zimbabwe to seek to address our economic woes by relying on economies that are themselves in serious trouble.

It is not being pessimistic to state that we are virtually on our own. No amount of pleading, it seems will take us out of our troubles. If we were asking for US 5 Billion a few years back, then the outcome would have been different. The most we should expect by way of assistance is the humanitarian aid which I understand has increased since the formation of the inclusive government. A few dollars may trickle in from our Nordic friends, SADC and the AU and then that will be about it.

Realistically speaking the STERP programme is an excellent programme if funding was forth coming from our traditional lenders. The reality on the ground seems to suggest otherwise. We need to adapt an all inclusive economic recovery programme that seeks to address our problems using the naturally resources we have in Zimbabwe as the only or primary resource base. We need to aggressively resuscitate the agricultural industry without being overly reliant on external funding. We need to get our mines to produce to sell to countries that will do business with us. We need to get the diamond, gold, asbestos, coal and other mines to produce to levels that will sustain our requirements.

Despite the recession in the global world, I will also propose that the inclusive government leverages the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora as a primary resource for recapitalizing our coffers. Countries like Nepal rely almost 100% on Nepalese migrant workers to keep their economy going. Considering that Zimbabwe has started a new chapter through the formation of the inclusive government, Zimbabweans in the Diaspora must now be geared at nation building as opposed to the traditional bickering we had grown accustomed to.

The ideas expressed in this article are not exclusive and should not be regarded as a policy proposal or a critique of the efforts of the Finance Minister. They should be simply be a guide that I hope will instigate debate amongst us Zimbabweans to start to critically look at ourselves, our situation, our country with a view to nation building against the background of a global recession. It is only us who can make a difference to our country by coming forward with ideas that will be provide the inclusive government with a wealth of ideas to draw from. We need to come up with any economic programme that takes into consideration the prevailing economic challenges both at home and abroad.

The writer Lloyd Msipa, writes from the United Kingdom and can be contacted at lmsipalaw@googlemail.com