EDITORIAL COMMENT: Results will measure effectiveness of Govt, councils
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa made it very clear yesterday at the first Cabinet meeting of his second term that the stress within Government is now on completing development work and implementing the next stages in policies, rather than on talking about what is going to happen or what is planned.
This is important because while talk is cheap, the actual end results are what matters to people and what marks the steps in Zimbabwe’s development as we move towards an upper middle-income society and economy by 2030, just over seven years away if you want to look at deadlines.
To get to this upper middle-income economy, the economy needs to grow, and grow faster, and needs to grow in ways that ensure the vast majority of the population are producing more and are benefiting from that rising production.
This also requires ever more infrastructure, more of a central Government responsibility, so that the producers are able to produce, and produce more, and what of the major gains of a better off population is better access to all the social services starting with decent health facilities and schools that a more advanced country requires.
The President was also extending targets. His first term saw agricultural policies and targets set so farmers could grow enough to feed their families and communities with surpluses left over to feed the country.
And Zimbabwe is now largely self-sufficient in food, with the gaps, largely dairy now, being filled rapidly as the encouragement in breeding more dairy stock a few years ago is now seeing a lot more milking cows producing milk.
Even the normal to below normal El Nino season now predicted should not be a disaster, but rather something that we can plan for and cope with since we know so much more about climate proofing our farming operations.
In other words, we need to be thinking more about slightly lower growth rates with less rain, rather than dramatic drops in output.
So the President is now moving away from self-sufficiency as a target, one that has been largely met, and wants to see rising agricultural exports. This is important if the farmers are to earn more money.
Farmers have largely saturated the local market, with the guaranteed markets setting up the Grain Marketing Board and general Government policies an important part of that.
If farmers are to grow more, and as we need them to keep expanding their incomes, this is the only way that can be achieved.
We obviously need to find more people to eat the food they grow and consume the tobacco and cotton they produce. And that means pushing exports a lot harder.
We are now moving into an era of surpluses and while some reserves can be retained, we need to find export markets. This means a different way of looking at farming output and might even need some diversification in what farmers are growing so we can produce the crops that offer the best returns in export markets.
Mining continues to grow fast, and the US$12 billion annual output is now about to be attained, so there will need to be new targets, and those will be partly met by more processing of minerals in Zimbabwe so we can pick up the extra value when we ship the final product.
The President is aware that the major investment drive of his first term has been critical in getting mining out of the doldrums and into leading the rapid expansion of our exports, as well as increasing our manufacturing base, and converting a lot of those extra crops that the farmers are growing into processed food that people can cook and eat.
So he wants everyone in Cabinet to be thinking about how their ministry can do more to boost investment, both local and foreign, and make it easier to open new businesses, new factories and produce ever more for local and export markets.
Increases in production also include the tourism industry, one which gives high returns for extra investment and which is notoriously labour intensive; in fact a lot of the investment and the operational costs of that industry are skilled people and the payroll, so bringing in more visitors and getting them to spend longer and to tour more parts of the country can accelerate economic growth.
Some ministries have this sort of work of boosting investment and production as a major function of their assigned duties, but the rest cannot sit back.
They also need to be involved, often making sure that the infrastructure expansion keeps up with the producer demands, that social services are available and that we continue to build our skills base so we have the sort of people that are needed to produce and to open businesses.
This production stress, and the emphasis on completing development on target and on time, has been seen in the provincial meetings being held under the chair of the Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in all 10 provinces.
These meetings bring together the provincial minister and the heads of the local authorities in each province, a sensible move since a lot of the work on the ground is supposed to be done by the local authorities with backing from central Government.
In the latest such meeting, in Mashonaland West, Minister of State Marian Chombo made it clear that while obviously planning had to continue and there would always be work in progress, what was important was not talk about what was being planned or done, but the completion of development projects, the opening of the new buildings, the commissioning of new services.
While it was pleasant to note that 168 of the more than 360 planned projects in the province since 2018 had been completed, the important point now was the completion of the other almost 200, and then the continuation of adding to the list of commissioned works.
The other Ministers of State have been pushing the same policy, and are not really fussed which of the two main parties control the local authorities, only that they push the agenda of doing the necessary work, fast.
Harare Minister of State Charles Tavengwa, whose four councils are all under opposition control although with increasing numbers of Zanu PF councillors, preached exactly the same message and offered the help of his own office.
As a former mayor, and one of the most successful when it came to commissioning new infrastructure, he is perfectly aware of the decline in almost everything since he left office, while the population continues to grow. So he cannot be bluffed.
He wants to see the required progress and the recommissioning of so much that has been wrecked.
All this stress on results is important, since this is what people need and people want. And the fact that President Mnangagwa is pushing this results-orientated approach very hard is what will make his second term even more successful than his first.