THERE are four important pronouncements that were made last week. Each of them is very important and has a bearing on this country’s economic recovery efforts. The first was the arrival of the IMF technical team to assess the state of implementation of the short-term measures agreed with the Government of Zimbabwe. The second was the announcement by the ruling Zanu-PF party that there will be a substantial increase in the salaries of civil servants.
The third one being the visit by the delegates from the Antwerp World Diamond Council. Indications are that pursuant to that visit a Zimbabwe delegation led by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Professor Francis Gudyanga and compromising officials from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation are already in Antwerp Belgium to cut deals that will see proper trade of our diamonds. The fourth and final one being the proposals for the establishment of the monitoring and implementation commission for the Zim Asset.
The four issues raised are all important for both the economic and political stabilisation of the country. They are further related and intersect as prime common denominators for the successful economic turnaround by the Government of Zimbabwe. It is critical to engage in conversations of what makes these issues an important point for national discourse.
One thing that cannot be disputed is that this country cannot operate in isolation from the rest of the world. It has to re-engage and reconstruct its relations with traditional partners including, among others, the multilateral institutions like the IMF. While it is realistically true that there is need for these multilateral institutions to have unparalleled respect of our country’s sovereignty and thus should not dictate terms of engagement it should also be our responsibility to provide a conducive political environment for successful engagement with the rest of the world.
One realistic point is that Zimbabwe has not been sound enough to pay off its debts to the IMF, but the IMF should also understand that the economic revival of the country rests on support of the economy. So if the IMF was to find a way of assisting Zimbabwe with new lines of credit then these would be useful in adding more impetus to the economy and therefore make it possible for the country to pay its debts while at the same time. The visit therefore is a major milestone for the new Government as it presents opportunities for sustained engagement with the economically powerful nation for the greater good of the country. This visit is of great importance as it presents a good point of measure for successful reintegration of the country to the bigger international community. This reintegration together with the balance of payments support from the capital projects and other economic recovery processes will be important for macroeconomic stabilisation.
Also happening at the same week was the re-engagement effort by the diamond trading team from Antwerp. This engagement is important in that it will assist open new business avenues and markets for Zimbabwean diamond trade. It is no secret that the trade embargo that had been imposed on Zimbabwean diamonds and companies had hindered the country’s economic recovery efforts as the diamond revenue was supposed to be the major contributor to the national fiscus.
At some stage the then Minister of Finance Tendai Biti had to revise the Budget downwards after it turned out that the US$600 million they thought would come from diamond revenue was just a pipe dream as the companies were put under the trade embargo and therefore unable to add any revenue into the fiscus. If the Zimbabwean diamonds are admitted for fair trade in the whole world and considering that there is potential for the diamonds to contribute 30 percent to the diamond market then the country will undoubtedly be able to stand on its feet.
Then there was also the announcement after the Politburo meeting last week that civil servants will get a substantial increment matching the Poverty Datum Line. The proposal by the ruling party is that the lowest paid civil servant will get US$540 which is a highly competitive salary which will make the Zimbabwean civil service one of the best paying in the region. This is a significant development because for any government policy to be fully implemented there is need for a strongly motivated and efficient civil service.
A civil service which is disgruntled and approaching public policy implementation processes half-heartedly will not assist Government. In fact, a weak civil service is a sure way of ensuring the Government fails to deliver services to the citizenry. If one was to reverse the clock and let it point backwards one will realise that the real beginning of weakening of the state in Zimbabwe can be traced to some of the dictates of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) which required the cutting of civil service positions.
The net effect of this cutting of jobs was that there was reduction in the capacity of Government to deliver. It is an open secret that a strong and dedicated as well as motivated civil service is the key driver of any successes in the implementation of public policies. Cutting off the civil service workforce under the guise of cutting Government expenditure was a dangerous approach as it weakened the capacity of the Government to deliver and by extension weakened the state. It is thus a milestone that the Government has decided the issues of strengthening of the civil service be a priority and that salaries be made competitive.
The proposed salary structures if implemented will do wonders not only in motivating the existing labour force but will attract others who left the Government and young graduates who will see the Government as an employer of choice. Regrettably, the past years have seen the erosion of the capacity of Government and has seen young people shunning working there, a situation that has made policy implementation difficult. A skilled, energetic and dedicated labour force is an important ingredient for successful implementation of public policies. This is the reason why the civil servants salary adjustments are so important for the ongoing economic recovery efforts. The final and most important pronouncement were the suggestions around the establishment of a monitoring and implementation commission for the national economic recovery policy Zim Asset. The suggestions point at the creation of a planning commission in the Office of the President and Cabinet to oversee the successful implementation of Zim Asset. In most occasions implementation of public policies fails because of poor monitoring mechanisms.
The establishment of an independent commission to oversee the implementation of Zim Asset will be a cutting edge master stroke which will be a deviation from the usual casual approach to policy implementation. Most importantly having such a commission report directly to the Office of the President and Cabinet gives it the necessary impetus and political stamina to be well respected. Also the establishment of that commission will ensure that the results based approaches to policy implementation as outlined by the Office of the President and Cabinet is fully achieved. The implementation commission will be useful again in the resource mobilisation are critical ingredients in policy implementation.
In conclusion, it is my argument that restoration of Zimbabwean relations with multilateral institutions like the IMF is critical for our resource mobilisation efforts. It will even be made much easier with the acceptance of the Zimbabwean diamonds in the international market and the visit of the Antwerp group points to a positive picture in that direction. Over and above that the successful implementation of the policy programmes that will ensure economic recovery and thus transform our livelihoods for the better rests on a well oiled, well motivated and results oriented civil service.
Qhubani Moyo is a public policy expert based in Bulawayo.