HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsLet’s move away from natural resource-driven economy

Let’s move away from natural resource-driven economy


BEYOND the current political stalemate lies the future. But before that future is the present, whose pain we endure as we aspire for a better future. We cannot dream any further because the court has to determine who we voted for. If you thought your vote was your voice, your vote is only a route to the courts and they will decide its real meaning. Keep waiting and be patient.

Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

Our aspirations for a better future are hinged on nothing, but the pains we experience today. We have suffered many years of torture, unfulfilled and broken hopes and dreams and near misses. As we wait for the courts to decide, politicians are waiting to take control of your lives. Before they take over, they will get paid handsomely. An expensive car or two are waiting for them, all in the name of providing resources to facilitate your development. It has been like that since 1980. No one is perfect in this political game.

Before the end of the current term, rest assured that you will be developed. In simpler terms, you will have more problems than now. The person who will highlight those problems or propose solutions to solve them, will be your next member of parliament. It is how our politics works in Zimbabwe.

As we await the court verdict, the key question for millions of Zimbabweans is what awaits them after the elections. We have lived a disrupted life since the year 2000.

The year 2000 is significant because that is when the same political leadership disrupted the agriculture industry which was then the mainstay of the economy. Our economy was agro-based. Since then, we have been on the waiting mode – waiting for change of hands or policies. Those two decades have gone to waste and proven that waiting should not have been an option at all even though we took it anyway.

For those who wished the country well, the lingering question is what will be the new government’s way forward. Is it going to remain traditional or there would be major changes. If there are changes, what will those be? Are we going to see new blood steering the country towards a new development direction? Admittedly, times have changed and the need for new hands and ideas is glaring.

The pamberi (forward with) and pasi (down with) sloganeering business does not pay the bills anymore. We need new brains to strategise and steer the country forward. It is possible. Zimbabwe has the human resources to do better.

But we have a problem of thinking that our natural resource base is the panacea to our problems. Zimbabwe is one of the poor countries in the world that cannot depend on exports to kick start growth. Doing so can harm economic growth, exports and can also harm the overall economy as well. Moreover, because the export sector is so crucial to productivity gains anything that hurts it will hold back economic growth and the economic as a whole.

In short, the belief that natural resources alone will lead to economic success needs to be examined for its deficiencies. It is impossible to determine a country’s economic growth path solely by looking at its environmental terrain or the extent to which it is naturally resource-endowed. The reasons are very simple. The developed economies cannot stand a natural resource endowed economy to industrialise as that would jeopardise its source of raw materials.

In simpler terms, no developed country wants to see a poor country prosper even when the later have depended on the former for guidance without realising that on their own, the later will cause more economic harm on the former by simply not supplying resources to the later, but to industrialise. As a result, and historically natural resources endowments are not an unambiguous route when it comes to economic growth. In many cases, they can be a curse.

Economies based on exploiting natural resources have long struggled with managing the windfalls they earned from selling their commodities into the international marketplace, mainly due to the Dutch Disease. The disease simply implies that the foreign currency generated from export of natural resources can harm domestic export, manufacturing and the industrial sector, notwithstanding the short-term economic gains. Foreign currency inflows push up the prices of local goods and services, fuelling broader inflation and making local industries less competitive.

We are in a better situation to draw lessons from countries that have recently achieved economic growth such as Japan, China and Argentina. These countries demonstrate the importance of the relationship between strong and trustworthy institutions and economic growth. Without a civil service, police, and judiciary that can be relied upon, poor investor confidence will certainly prevail with most savings being done on offshore accounts.

Strong political institutions ensure the protection of the rule of law, individual freedoms and private property, which underpin development and economic growth. These countries have shown that a good long term economic growth strategy is nothing without these. China is where it is today, partly because they have put in place a system that inspires investor confidence by prioritising physical infrastructure, political security and stability. In essence, the pursuit of economic growth overrides any views on the political system they invest in.

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