Political reforms needed for sustainable economic growth

THE new government has been selling the impression that the recent elections marked a new beginning. What is certain thus far is that, indeed, they are same old people who have assumed new roles and leadership positions, and they are conveying an unsubstantiated narrative of hope. The real new beginning is yet to be seen or usher people out of their current poverty.

Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

Those in the inner circles of power are convinced that the new administration has the country at heart even when it is occupied by the same hands that parochially implemented the instructions of a dictatorship of the previous administration. Their new beginning is yet to see the rays of hope glimmer on the perennially despaired faces of the citizens.
It is still dark of hope in this country and the earlier we stop glossing over our challenges, the sooner we go to the trenches to secure our economy.

What has met citizens every morning, soon after elections were concluded, are the same old stories but intensified. There are no jobs and people cannot feed their families, let alone nurture the hopes of a brighter future. If they have jobs, they cannot access their earnings as there is no cash in the banks. There is no clean water and cholera is stalking their lives. It is still a depressing situation and yet social and State media is fed with the promises of a flowery future.

There is no doubt that whether the current President does something or not, the situation will somewhat improve in the short-term. This is simply because former President Robert Mugabe was a huge stumbling block to anything foreign and progressive thinking. Secondly, the regional and global economic factors, as discussed in my previous instalments, favour countries such as Zimbabwe because they offer cheap skilled labour and affordable raw materials. The long term future may not be as bright, but there will be an improvement in the short term.

In my previous instalments, I have also called for a broad-based committee to spearhead the process of drafting a national vision — that will become our national rallying blueprint from now and in the long-term. That is urgently necessary for several reasons, among which includes ensuring accountability to the national goals of the country and avoid unnecessary divergence due to politics. But then, will the national economic vision suffice to unite the country and deliver the goal of economic growth in the long term?

Responding to this question requires us to understand our economic problem from two perspectives. We are in this bad economic situation because of bad politics. The same people, structures and system that unleashed bad politics on our thriving economy are in the office and trying to convince us that they mean well. Change is possible and people can repent. We can only give them the benefit of doubt, not because there are choices anyway.

The second perspective is that listening to how the new president is rolling out his economic recovery vision, we seem to be prescribing an economic solution to problems that were created by politics and the same politicians who still occupy the echelons of power. Technocrats may never resolve the debate over how to revive our economy, but the fact is that the current economic malaise warrants broader political reforms that transcends changing governing faces, but an overhaul of the entire system and style of politics.

It is a painful suggestion that can potentially decant the entire generation of the current leadership. But again, the political reforms that tackle political myopia tend to promise the biggest payoffs, and it is the only way to steer for a better economic outcome. This is simply because such broader political reforms are a vital prologue for that kind of long-term economic vision that will reset the national economic trajectory.

Put simply, Zanu PF is a scary organisation. It is in charge of national armoury and the military which they deploy for their convenience. The Mugabe ouster is a case in point. For that reason, the party has nurtured a sophisticated corruption culture that has spread profoundly and widely within its political veins beyond reproach. Any investor who comes to Zimbabwe is very much aware of this high risk and they come with their eyes fixated on protecting their investment than the development of the country.

The political reforms will ensure that the old generation of politicians — who are products of the corrupt system exit the scene paving way for the new policymakers who should be part of the national vision to institute long-term thinking that tackles the long term challenges besetting the economy. This will in turn instil confidence and bring back predictability required to drive sustainable development.

What is required for us as a nation to turn the corner is to overhaul our political system in order to address our economic problems, rather than reforming economic policies.
Only when we can achieve this, will we enjoy the freedom to make solid economic policies required to avoid bad politics unquestionably destroying the economy because of the fear to lose power.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa

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