The four-legged ZimAsset economic blueprint is the latest one to be formulated by the government of Zimbabwe after a host of others did not yield intended positive results owing to various reasons.
By Kudzai Kwangwari
The policy is hinged on four clusters which are food security and nutrition, beneficiation, infrastructure and utilities, and, lastly, poverty reduction.
Backing this are sanctions-busting measures also based on the conviction that our country is under sanctions from the European Union and America.
Recently addressing students at the Zimbabwe Staff College, Information minister Jonathan Moyo noted a point which has been acknowledged before in many other fora which is that Zimbabwe is good at policy formulation, but very poor on implementation. Simba Makoni, leader of opposition MKD, has also been very clear and assertive on this point. So is this latest policy going to be successful we wonder?
I actually don’t agree completely that we are good at formulation as many seem to suggest. I actually think that our policy failure on implementation is located in our failure in formulation. Our policy formulation fails for a number of reasons, and chief among them, is the political environment which is still full of fear as a result of bad politics.
The other reasons include lack of budgetary support for these policies, corruption, political polarisation, lack of independence of our technocrats, lack of a vibrant free media and general lack of trust among Zimbabweans.
The reason why I am convinced that our policy formulation is not up to scratch is not because our technocrats are not good enough, but it is because a national policy must naturally have public buy-in so that the citizens can identify the policy as theirs and not for certain individuals or State or certain political party.
In order for this to happen there must be a deliberate process by the leadership where citizens are made to appreciate policy rationale so that they appreciate the problem that needs to be addressed. For this to happen there must be platforms where citizens can access information freely and easily.
Citizens then must be given an opportunity to contribute so that their views find expression in the proposed policy and they feel it is theirs. This is citizen-based public policy formulation. Make the people understand what is wrong and they must take part in the solution-finding process.
In my view ZimAsset did not go through this process and there is a divide between the State and citizens with the later just looking up to the State to make things happen and waiting to blame when positive change does not come.
The other problem is budgetary constraints which affect many developing countries to fund even wonderful policies. In our last budget we recorded a huge deficit and one wonders what miracle can we expect to be able to support the ZimAsset policy?
It would look like we had no intention for it to be successful beyond having it on the document because there must be resources to support successful implementation of such a big national policy.
One other point which works against good policy implementation and formulation is political instability and polarisation. While our country is not at war physically, we seem so divided that we cannot agree on anything even a small matter as long as it is coming from the left or right side.
We have been reduced to think in terms of black or white, either you are white or black with no other colours accepted. Grey is interpreted as either black trying to be white or white trying to be black. Grey is no longer treated as an acceptable colour in itself. So it’s either you are with me or you are an enemy if we disagree. This political polarisation has blinded us from appreciating virtues of those perceived to be against us.
For example, President Robert Mugabe will not acknowledge or appreciate a good idea from the MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai regardless of its virtues and vice versa. This manifests itself at all levels of our society and it affects successful policy implementation since others will dismiss it as an initiative of the other political grouping.
And we have seen this with how the current ZimAsset policy is viewed by the opposition as a Zanu PF policy and true to it; the policy did not come about after a comprehensive consultative process. So, many of these groups will have nothing to do with it in trying to make it successful but just criticising it.
The fourth point is lack of a vibrant free media which assists in making sure that the views of the people are articulated and included both in rural and urban communities. In a country where the media is not free the country suffers a poverty of ideas as many of its citizens are deprived of a platform to contribute.
Imagine in a country like ours where according to the results of last census, about 60% of the population is in the rural communities and they are deprived of access to information and free expression it means we lose a lot that way and more than 60% of the population is not involved in a policy which they must support and assist in formulation, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
Kudzai Kwangwari is a development Practitioner and Community Media Activist who can be reached on Cell-0775 093 384 email firstname.lastname@example.org