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Comment: Phew! What a year

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2010 ends today. It will be remembered as a year of great expectations for two main reasons.

After 11 months of sustained reforms since the formation of the inclusive government and the adoption of the multi-currency system in February 2009, the majority of Zimbabweans expected 2010 to vault the country beyond political and economic stabilisation.

The goal on the political front was to re-establish a progressive democratic society by propelling constitutional and institutional reforms.

Treasury’s objective, on the other hand, was to develop from stabilisation to growth, predicting a near double-digit growth in gross domestic product (GDP) for the year.

Finance minister Tendai Biti has reported that political and economic progress have been slow and frustrating, and this is largely because of government failure.

More precisely, the parties to the Global Political Agreement that gave rise to the inclusive government have found themselves in worse political and ideological differences than they had before joining hands in a marriage of convenience, jeopardising the arrangement and eroding confidence.

The 2011 National Budget has already brought forward many of those macro-economic objectives that were due to be achieved in the first 23 months of economic reconstruction.

Key political targets — for the new constitution and electoral, media and national security reform — have only been achieved in part, while critical ones have been missed and deferred to next year.

Just by the amount of expectations that it bears, it would appear 2011 is the true year of great expectations.

But the question is: Does the nation still have the same level of hope, expectation and optimism?

The answer is not determinate because of heightened uncertainty escalated by political risk, particularly the inconclusive and confused issue of economic indigenisation, the delays and conflicts bedeviling the constitution-making process and the lack of consensus on the holding of next elections.

The local business community has petitioned the inclusive government to defer elections by at least three years to give industry enough time to recover with uninterrupted momentum. But Zanu PF and MDC-T want out of the inclusive government like yesterday.

This presents two scenarios: one progressive and the other retrogressive. Both scenarios share a common denominator: politics is the single largest threat to a progressive Zimbabwe.

The optimistic scenario assumes that there are no elections next year and predicts that the momentum of the last 23 months will be sustained to culminate in increased investment, liquidity, capacity utilisation and GDP.

The key driver of this optimism is confidence.

The latter scenario is predicated on the assumption that elections are disruptive and violent, and could doom the current progress and abruptly reverse the trend.

The dread of Zimbabweans is that the outcome of the next election will be disputed and inevitably re-ignite the political chaos that plunged the country into its worst moments in history, eventually leading to the inclusive government.

The question of the legitimacy of the elections and the effects of a dispute is the very reason why every Zimbabwean wants elections deferred.

Investment and capital flight are seen returning, industry stagnating and the economy receding again.

Clearly, 2011 is a year of great uncertainty; it could see the country regaining its economic and political footing or going the way of Ivory Coast or even worse.

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