Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
Yesterday’s meeting between President Mugabe and the private sector was both timely and timeous. The economy has faced immense pressure in recent weeks and it needed such a tonic to induce confidence that the challenges are surmountable through such platforms.
The meeting was quite symbolic and of practical value, showing an appreciation of business dynamics at the highest level. The deteriorating foreign currency position and the growing foreign currency black market and other attendant problems are wrecking havoc on the economy, needing urgent redress.
Such a meeting of the minds that saw the indaba being attended by representatives from business associations, such as the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI), Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CoMZ), Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) and Zimbabwe Council of Tourism, while on Government side the President himself, Cabinet Ministers and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya, can only augur well the economy.
We want to believe that there was frankness and sincerity during the discussions with the ultimate desire being that of building a better economy for this country’s citizenry.
We will not pretend that solutions to the challenges are easy to come by, experience has already shown that its no stroll in the park, but the message sent out by the convening of such a meeting is a positive one that will yield results given the camaraderie exhibited during the meeting.
Government and business have never been the best of friends in many economies, usually holding each other with suspicion, but yesterday’s interface was exactly what the doctor ordered. The two are usually involved in a relationship of compromise, with a lot of give and take, all meant to advance the economy.
The interface sends the message that indeed Government, at the highest level, is concerned with the current state of affairs and respects the role that the private sector plays and should play to transform the economy.
It also underlines the importance of congruency among different players despite differences: Issues addressed are of national importance and parochial interests must be subordinate to these.
Business and economics invariably demand responsiveness to obtaining realities and such platforms send a powerful message to all players. Government on the other side demands sincerity from business.
Despondency and dejection find no place in an economy confronted by the challenges, whose magnitude is self evident. Clearly, there are a few possible reactions when things are not looking up:
● To play the passive role and let things spiral out of control
● To act decisively and expeditiously
● To pretend all is well and proceed unperturbed
● To resist all efforts to make progress.
But yesterday’s meeting sent the message that the two partners have decided to act decisively and expeditiously to get the economy back on track. Of course immense progress has been achieved since the beginning of the year, but challenges such as low production levels and the foreign currency challenges threaten to reverse any gain thus far.
The devaluation of the bond notes, though we initially dismissed as naughty undertones by some speculators, now present clear challenges that must be addressed immediately. Prices are rising at alarming levels while millions of dollars are locked up in mobile money wallets. The Retailers Association of Zimbabwe and industrialists have predicted sharper price movements, a scenario that should not be allowed to deteriorate at all.
It is against this background that we applaud the Government and Business interface held yesterday. The President’s pronouncements on non-performing parastatals and corruption, and his narration of Government interventions such as Command Agriculture should provide the impetus to take economic recovery efforts to the next level.
Poor performance by parastatals has been costly to business for too long, inducing inefficiencies across the economic chain while holding the economy to ransom. These are supposed to contribute at least 40 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, but currently their contribution is also negligible.
Many of them have bled the fiscus for too long. Of course we have witnessed strategies to resuscitate such enterprises as Zisco Steel and the National Railways of Zimbabwe. This is expected to yield results.
“We certainly share your concerns over under-performance of the State enterprises and parastatals sector. The enactment of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act, currently before Parliament is expected to help transform the fortunes of the sector, through enhancing the entities’ compliance with sound corporate governance practices,” said President Mugabe.
As the President said, those that can be brought to life should be put in the resuscitation room and efforts made for them to operate normally again, while those that are beyond redemption should just be buried. The non-performing parastatals have had a debilitating effect on the economy year after year, bleeding the economy of billions of dollars in the process.
It is important that the President’s instruction be followed through with expeditious responses that will see the responsible ministries identifying those that should live and those that should head straight to the morgue. It would be critical to have the Office of the President and Cabinet actively involved to ensure results are attained.
Suspending such an exercise to some time in the distant future would continue to harm an already challenges economy. The Privatisation Agency of Zimbabwe and its successor body the State Enterprise Regulatory Authority have already done the groundwork and are fully aware of the required strategies and processes that need to be employed on each parastatal. Their submissions can be dusted off and improved on where possible to get this sector of the economy working again.
The economy will certainly heave a sigh of relief. Yesterday the President also spoke passionately on the need to rid the economy of corruption, a vice that has had deleterious consequences to the economy.
President Mugabe implored the privates sector to vigorously stem the scourge, as he pledged Government’s continued efforts to rid the country of corruption. This should send a clear message that the country is allergic to the vice and would not want it to last another day.
“Fight it in your area as much as we are fighting it in Government. We need a collective approach, cases should not be allowed to go unpunished. Ngavatendwe pamabasa. But it begins at the top kunesu vakuru — the issue of discipline, trustworthy and honesty. Government will soon introduce a code of conduct and ethics for senior officials in the public service, while the Anti-Corruption Commission is also spearheading the anti-corruption campaign, as mandated under the relevant legislation.”
Indeed this should be the mantra if Zimbabwe is to save the billions it is losing through corruption. On their part, business representatives implored Government to be consistent in its policy pronouncements while consulting more widely with the private sector.
These requests are not too difficult to commit to, we are sure, given the desire across the board to retain and attract investment, and to improve the ease of doing business in this country.
We hope that this meeting is the beginning of new things in terms of closer engagement between Government and Business and the adoption and implementation of strategies that will redress the current challenges afflicting the economy. Of course mere talk does not produce results; much implementation of agreed strategies and processes will surely produce fruits.
In God I Trust!