HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEconomic woes: Technocracy the solution?

Economic woes: Technocracy the solution?

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“THERE is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler:Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.” – Ecclesiastes 10 verses 5 to 7

Tapiwa Nyandoro

Could this “evil” and “error” explain Zimbabwe’s current economic woes? Recently the Financial Gazette called for the appointment of technocrats to urban councils.

The necessary legislation has to be amended so that each council ends up with at least one to two each, depending on the size of the following professionals:

Chartered Accountants
Engineers (one civil, one electrical)
Public Health Professionals
Lawyers
Urban / Town Planners and Architects
Project Engineers
Public Transport Managers
Purchasing / Procurement Specialists
Sociologists
Educationists
A representative of Transparency International

Citizens must vote for the above listed professionals / skill basket upon presentation of curriculum vitae showing at least 10 years of progressive and relevant experience post professional qualification.
The CVs have to be audited for authenticity by a reputable public auditor. This move to meritocracy is long overdue.

The 11 to 20 professionals could then be joined by five to 15 others elected on the basis of current legislation, provided a candidate has owned a legal property in the appropriate ward, and paid rates religiously for at least 10 years.

There should be no room for opportunists, touts, political party hoodlums and convicted criminals as at present.

Where a town is short of the prescribed skills, or cannot afford them, the relevant minister should present candidates to the elected council for consideration. Small towns or councils could share skill baskets.

The nation is sick and tired of predatory city “fathers” who offer nothing but swindle orphans and widows of their houses.
The call for placing technocrats in the front in the civil service (and at cabinet level) was later echoed by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

However, from the contents of an editorial in a leading government owned newspaper (January 22 2015) the call may have ruffled feathers in the top echelons of the civil service, possibly prompting accusations that it was cabinet itself, that collectively was deadwood.

Although Zimbabwe has an Executive Presidency, the Nation’s CEO is forced to draw most of his Cabinet from Parliament a resource pool that may lack the necessary executive technical skills, experience, drive and mindsets.

It is a pool that is insecure, pre-occupied with power retention and focused on the short term. “A week”, it has been said, “is a long time in politics”.

To make matters worse, the current Constitution seems to put regional, if not tribal considerations above competence in the selection of cabinet ministers.

The nation is thus thrust deep into the quagmire of politics of identity, and not ideas, or knowledge.

The result is there for all to see: incessant political strife and persistent economic stagnation. The sooner the Constitution is amended, the better.

But what is a technocrat and what is a technocratic approach or technocracy? Bernard Bwoni (bernardbwoni.blogspot.com) may have successfully answered the question (Herald January 26 2015).

A technocrat is not necessarily a science or engineering graduate or a PhD holder. A technocrat practices evidence-based decision making or management.

Barack Obama, a lawyer, is one example of a technocrat.
His decision on normalising relations with Cuba is an example of evidence-based decision making, as is his choice of economic advisors favouring quantitative easing when it was prudent to do so.

Bill Gates – a university drop out – is yet another example. Common sense is indeed common to both men.

It seems therefore, a psychometric analysis is necessary in assisting in the selection of executives with a better chance of success in their job even in the public sector, if not for public office holders as well.

Where no evidence exists for evidence- based decision making, a technocratic approach involves experimentation, verification, pilot studies, scale ups and or mock runs, simulations, validation and or certification and costing / viability / feasibility studies before launching or implementation.

In other words, technocracy involves a rigourous scientific approach in which mathematics and finance disciplines are the languages of choice.

The land reform programme needed to have been taken through the procedures and so did the Nziramasanga Commission findings on education, unless they are evidence based.

The currently topical US$100m loan to artisanal miners and government’s hastened FDI-repellant indigenisation programme may fail rigourous examination or viability tests.

Research and (project, process and product) Development (R & D), sums up the foundation of technocracy.

Needless to say, it needs funding. Up to 10% or more of turnover or budgets in the case of some innovation-driven industries and government ministries, mining being a case in point, may need to be reserved annually, for R & D.

The expenditure too, should be adequate for critical mass, otherwise the ventures would not be sustainable.

Commitment and appreciation of what is needed is therefore essential at the highest level.

In its December 6 2014 edition, The Economist gave an insight of how some “governments are borrowing ideas about innovation from the private sector”. The government of Zimbabwe needs to follow suit.
The days of plunging into costly national programmes without supporting data are gone.

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