HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNational Question: When inefficiency becomes a national pastime

National Question: When inefficiency becomes a national pastime

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Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Finance minister Tendai Biti have recently made very useful disclosures about the state of this economy, but these have largely gone unnoticed.

The reason for this is we scarcely want to talk about functional inadequacies as a nation.

We have created an environment where inefficiency has become a national pastime. This tragedy has been built on a foundation of excuses and scapegoating.

To some, inefficiency has become a vocation, and an opportunity to get rich without working.

We have in our midst career recipients of State gifts who love to lay these to waste and then come back to ask for more. They have become obsessed with entitlement.

If they are asked to account for previous handouts, they throw tantrums. These leeches always take a position at the front of the queue or command a strategic position on the feeding trough.

I am sure these are the persons Gono referred to in his contribution to the indigenisation debate, which was annexured to the mid-year monetary policy last month.

He spoke of persons who wanted to use the law to “commit or justify acts of economic banditry” in order to “multiply pockets of inefficiency” in the economy.

He said where an individual has benefited from the land reform programme, and was allocated a farm(s) which they are not making full use of, those people “should not be allowed to go and multiply that failure into other sectors such as mining, manufacturing and many others, unless that beneficiary is starting his or her own entity afresh!”

“There ought to be a deliberate bias towards or in favour of those who have not benefited from other government programmes before, so that a broad-based empowerment model can be achieved,” he said.

Gono will definitely not receive a standing ovation for this from Zanu PF’s doyens of indigenisation.

Notice how the grabbing brigade never talks of upping productivity levels or pushing new frontiers of efficiency. Their monologue is often dominated by threats of expropriation and arresting dissenters.

As a result, the line between “correcting historical imbalances” and chaperoning this economy to its death has become blurred.

The success of the land reform programme has as a result been measured by the number of farms confiscated and not necessarily output from the land.

It has been measured by the number of tractors, ploughs and planters doled out and not hectarage tilled.

It is not surprising therefore that in his Mid-Term Plan, Finance minister Biti revealed that “over the years, huge resources were committed to agriculture without the requisite impact on production and productivity”.

He painted a gloomy picture in the maize and wheat sectors where yields have gone down to 0,7 tonnes per hectare and three tonnes per hectare respectively.

This is against international best practice of 8-12 tonnes per hectare and eight tonnes per hectare in maize and wheat respectively.

To dramatise the inefficiency in this sector, almost 2,1 million hectares were put under maize this past season and output was a meagre 1,45 million tonnes. At just two tonnes per hectare, Zimbabwe would have produced four millon tonnes, enough to feed the country and service exports.

But despite the increase in hectarage and increased agricultural funding, Zimbabwe will import maize this year.

The country will also import wheat, soyabeans and milk from as far afield as New Zealand. The milk from New Zealand – which is of a much better quality than that produced by Gushungo — will still land here much cheaper than locally produced milk.

That inefficiency is masked because growth and progress are measured in tonnes, and tonnage alone does not give us information about efficiencies. It only gives information about output which is often celebrated without any critical analysis.

Both Gono and Biti in their mid-term statements told us that maize output had increased by 9%; a reason to celebrate? Not at all; we are celebrating our inefficiency.

Ever wondered why we are so poor yet we have all vast natural resources at our disposal?

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