EDITORIAL COMMENT: Short term economic stabilisation blueprint should build on ZimAsset

The Chronicle

WE welcome Government’s short term economic blueprint that is being worked on amid expectations that it will stabilise the economy. We hope it will be approved by Cabinet soon so that it is expeditiously implemented to address some of the pressing challenges confronting the country. The new policy will replace the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) whose lifespan comes to an end at the end of this year.

ZimAsset, while impressive on paper, was largely not fully implemented due to a myriad of reasons among them a shortage of resources. The blueprint required $27 billion to be fully implemented and there was consensus that this was an ambitious plan given the parlous state of the economy. The new short term plan therefore comes at an opportune time when Cabinet has just been sworn in with President Emmerson Mnangagwa emphasising on the need to prioritise economics over politics.

The President has said his Ministers will be judged on the basis of performance within given timeframes and it is our hope that the new economic policy speaks to that vision since it is set to provide the basis upon which the new Government will work and move forward. We also envisage that it will also provide stepping stones for economic stability as the Government moves towards achieving middle income status by 2030.

It should, however, not set unrealistic targets thereby building expectations within the nation which may not be achieved. Zimbabwe is going through a lot of challenges which require confidence building measures to be implemented for the country to stabilise its economy. It is important that the right fundamentals are put in place before the new economic blueprint is implemented.

We also posit that the new Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, should be central to the formulation of the new economic policy since he will be responsible for implementing most of its contents. We cannot expect him to drive the economic turnaround programme when he has no buy-in to the country’s economic blueprint.

Prof Ncube is already on a countrywide listening and consultation programme where he is meeting key business executives with a view to addressing their challenges and getting them on board Government’s programme to resuscitate the economy. Clearly he values their input which should also form part of the new economic policy.

Be that as it may, we are confident that the new short term measures are well thought out and practical enough to stabilise the economy and set Zimbabwe on a path to prosperity. Giving a brief synopsis into the new blueprint at the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) Business Leaders’ Conference 2018 in Victoria Falls on Thursday, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ambassador Stuart Comberbach, said the draft policy had already been distributed to key stakeholders for consideration.

Although he could not divulge more details on the policy document, Ambassador Comberbach said the policy should provide a basis for economic stability.

The two-year plan will be followed by two other five-year national development plans that are expected to usher the country into 2030, by which time Zimbabwe is targeting to be a middle-income economy and targets a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $65 billion.

On average, countries with per capita gross national incomes of between $996 and $12 195 fall under this category. Said Ambassador Comberbach: “There is a short-term plan that Government has been working on for economic stabilisation. This is a two- year plan, which is now ready in draft form and will obviously go through consideration by the new Cabinet and see to what extent it meets expectations.

“It should guide the economy for the next two years and there after we will have two five- year national development plans. The first one will be for 2021 to 2025 and another in 2016 to 2030, leading us into the vision 2030 middle income economy. “I cannot provide further details, but I have already received my draft copy.”

Amb Comberbach said there was political will from the new Government, which should see the economy growing. He said Government was committed to addressing challenges that hinder foreign direct investment as well as the problems dogging State Enterprises and Parastatals, so that they gain competitiveness. Parastatals have been performing dismally, with 38 out of 93 State-owned firms audited in 2016 incurring a combined $270 million loss owing to weak corporate governance practices and ineffective control mechanisms.

President Mnangagwa has already laid the ground for the implementation of the new policy by articulating his vision which puts the economy ahead of everything. He also removed some of the impediments to FDI while accelerating re-engagement with the rest of the world, particularly the West.
By tackling corruption, slothfulness in Government bureaucracy, improving the ease of doing business and opening the country to massive foreign investment, the President has shown that he is serious about attaining middle income status by 2030. He needs our support.