Kudos to the Zimbabwe technocratic crusade
Bernard Bwoni Correspondent
It has been a very interesting week to say the least with cases of “stray donkeys” and “little minds that cannot be corrected”. President Mugabe returned from his well-deserved break and he was in form and rejuvenated indeed.
Preparations for the country’s tobacco marketing season are underway, another bumper tobacco crop is expected with the only worry being that there could be an over-supply of the crop that could lead to lower prices.
Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa was in the mix stressing the importance of recruiting technocrats to drive the country’s economic transformation.
The country and its economic success will be guaranteed if strategic sectors are manned by competent, qualified and patriotic personnel who can solve problems.
The move by Government to have technocrats in strategic positions is brave and progressive. A technical approach is necessary for Zimbabwe to realise its full developmental potential.
It is important that those patriotic individuals with the right expertise and education are placed in areas of strategic importance.
However, the technocrats will need to rise above the disabling political antipathy.
The move to recruit technocrats will mean that crucial sectors of the country are run by the best qualified, competent people who put the country first.
The criteria for qualifying for top leadership is expertise and the ability to deal with real life situations and working hard to ensure successful achievement of agreed outcomes. Zimbabwe does have an abundance of such technocrats both inside and outside of the country.
It is about finding committed individuals who can move the country forward. The technocrat is an expert, granted, but being an expert on its own is not the same as wisdom. The technocrats have to polish their own wisdom through application, learning from failures, discipline and that sacred belief in doing things for the greater good. But is wisdom enough to rescue Zimbabwe from its current economic quagmire?
Success will require tapping into minds from many disciplines of technocrats with hands on experience not just academic education. Developing countries like Zimbabwe will struggle to achieve economic progress if incompetent, unqualified and unpatriotic personnel remain embedded in critical areas of the economy. The remedy is a mix of technocrats and the non-technocratic elements.
It is stating the obvious that governing is a social construct that serves social functions and technocrats will struggle with the social functions of governance.
The government of Zimbabwe has remained committed to good governance and challenging corruption and other social ills. The task of eradicating corruption and maintaining a corrupt-free system is very delicate and requires political will.
The ability to understand a situation and deal with it correctly does not have anything to do with popularity but with knowledge of the subject.
The technocrats should be able to rise above the paralysing and polarising political poison prevalent at the moment. They often bring very little by way of “baggage” and more of a reputation advantage both in terms of knowledge and a sense of putting the national interest above party agendas.
Let’s not confuse technocrats with loud-mouth academics-turned-politicians and names like Ibbo Mandaza immediately spring to mind. The thing with technocrats is that they can practically claim wiser economic custodianship, greater ideological commitment to economic principles and deeper connections with transnational and multinational financial networks both domestic and international.
The economy is the driving power of any nation thus academic and practical awareness of economics are a prerequisite of those intending to occupy positions of economic influence and a blend of technocracy and democracy is sure meant to lead to economic transformation.
Ideally a country’s finance ministry should have technocrats with an academic background in economics and finance as standard because even if you want to fuse the realities on the ground with economic principle you would need an awareness, understanding and academic background in the subject. Economics is a critical discipline for its all-encompassing nature and the fact that it is intricately woven with the political function of the state.
One can be forgiven for feeling uncomfortable with someone who has not studied economics making economic decisions that will impact on the country for decades to come.
However with the right technocrats in the background this can work, but it has to be the right technocrats.
A seamless unification of the political and expert functions of governing offers Zimbabwe a possible route out of the economic muddle the country is confronted with.
However, the thing to understand is that having a degree does not make you automatically a technocrat because technocracy is defined by rational rather than idealistic thought processes where decisions are made based on the real world processes.
A political functionary who can make good moral decisions with the public’s interest whilst also having an awareness and ability to comprehend different expert opinions and paradigms is crucial to any country’s economic revival. The country’s leadership needs to be more conversant and appreciative enough to consult with technocrats to help make sound economic decisions and at the same time be well versed in the humanities and social sciences.
This means removing from power those politicians who only value self-benefit over the public good.
It is impossible to exclude facts from political decision-making processes and people yearn for a clever, dispassionate and principled government. When the rulers prove indecisive or are discredited, turning to the wisdom and expertise of technocrats is the way to go. It is possible that when political power is not publicly contested at all, electability is irrelevant and expertise can give the ambitious an edge. Technocracy is actually a proven model of governance which has elevated the standard of living of a people from a third world to a first world in the case of Singapore and China.
An interesting point to note is that in China’s Politburo Standing Committee eight out of the nine members are engineers and also the current Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has degrees in Economics and Law, a healthy academic combination for governance function.
But is that sustainable in the long run?
The Chinese have engineers, scientists, economists and mathematicians in the political fold especially at Politburo level instead of lawyers and other social science qualified politicians. Singapore is a country run by technocrats and is often touted as a shining example in the governance function for the greater good of the citizenry due to a clear understanding of their needs and political will to ensure these needs are met.
Herbert Hoover, who was the President of the United States in 1929 when the stock market collapsed was a professional mining engineer and there was nothing he could do when the American economy went up in flames. Here is an example of technocracy backfiring or was it just an unfortunate moment in American history? There is also the argument that China, run by technocrats, suffers from heavy pollution, unsustainable inequalities and rampant corruption and the technocrats have not managed to halt the degeneracy.
Zimbabwe’s move to embrace technocracy for its expertise-based approach is commendable and should incorporate the intricate details of the ZIMASSET economic blueprint and the country’s economic empowerment policies. The country deserves better, an urgent need for technocrats who will spearhead the rehabilitation of the country’s dilapidated infrastructure and dysfunctional institutions.
It needs practical functionaries who will unclog systems and clear the entire deadwood that remains the bane of most national institutions.
VP Mnangagwa started off very well by making it clear that corrupt officials would be dealt with decisively.
Now he is talking about harnessing the expertise of technocrats.
The ruling party has always been responsive when it comes to matters of national importance.
It should be said that institutions are bigger than personalities and a reform programme can only be deemed a success when its momentum out-paces its original architects.
The invitation of technocrats into Government will bring that added edge into the country’s economic recovery process.