Our approach to the economic revival agenda remains scattered, omnivorous and lacks focus. Those leading on this approach are bent on doing everything to appease their political constituencies, foreign investors and international finance institutions, instead of focusing on the broader developmental agenda.
develop me Tapiwa Gomo
This is a difficult venture, given the state of the economy and development of the country. In addition, these targeted actors, mainly foreign investors and international finance institutions, are not known for helping developing countries to establish sustainable economies apart from being sources of conditional funding, and yet they are being given a central role in the revival of our economy.
It is no brainer that the ultimate and longer term vision of the country should be the economic development of the nation, which is much broader than the economic growth being pursued by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and his camp.
In a context such as Zimbabwe where both political and economic decay has directly impacted on the household livelihood situation, there is a huge risk in pursuing a narrow, economic growth-focused model at the expense of development because the benefits of the former tend to evade the ordinary citizens.
Nonetheless there is a discernible obsession for economic growth, perhaps as a quick-fix and short-term process for the résumé of those driving the agenda. This obsession is about creating positive numbers on the national economic dashboard for political expedience. In short, the economic growth model being pursued is about increasing the gross domestic product and per-capita national product.
The news headlines about the myriad of deals signed with external investors is evidence of this nativity. When the value of those deals is put together, it would look like the economy is functioning, when in fact the ordinary people are still living in dire poverty.
Assuming that such deals materialise, there is no guarantee that ordinary people would be benefit. Our neighbours, Zambia, walked this route in the 1990s when they adopted the International Monetary Fund and World Bank-prescribed Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility.
As their economic dashboard showed considerable improvements due to the presence of foreign investment, poverty levels spiked. Access to jobs and basic services deteriorated due to lack of capital, as most of the earnings went to the home countries of the foreign investors. Development suffers when a country leases its economic growth to foreign investment.
While economic growth is a necessary, but one of the components of the bigger picture, Zimbabwe needs a development approach to address its broader national challenges.
Economic development is the outcome of planned and result-oriented activities which focus on increasing the economic wealth of a country for the welfare of its people.
It is an important, but not the only condition for development.
If development is properly sustained, it enables improvement in the living conditions of ordinary citizens and becomes a continuous process that can be seen in the long term.
Why is pursuing economic growth over development a danger to the future of the country. I gave the Zambia example earlier, which demonstrated that the economic growth model tends to pursue a neo-liberal approach which places foreign actors at the driving seat of everything economic, sidelining locals and instead viewing them as labourers, beneficiaries and consumers than equal participants in the creation of national wealth. The entire productive population of the country is made to depend on externally-driven means of production.
This discourse of economic growth underpins the ruling party’s shift in policies under the overarching theme of Zimbabwe is open for business. Such an invite can only be targeting those outside. The ruling party has recently completely abandoned the indigenisation agenda and handed over all the solutions pertaining to national economic problems to external players. Their promise to create employment is largely based on the hopes of attracting investors to bring business into the country.
In pursuing economic development, locals must play a central role in all sectors, with foreign investments filling in the gaps. This is simply because sustainable development is a locally inclusive process of increasing volume of local production, an improvement in living conditions, the enhancement of democracy, improvement in self-esteem needs, the creation of opportunities, infrastructural and industrial development and much more.
In simpler terms, it is the progress in the socio-economic structure of the economy. To simplify it further, Zimbabweans must play a central role in boosting their agriculture industry to produce enough to feed themselves and minimise dependence on imports. The reasons agriculture is the ideal starting point for Zimbabwe is that, firstly, we have fertile soil and good rains.
Secondly, it can quickly generate massive employment opportunities, put the country in charge of its food production while ensuring self-sufficiency. It also has a knock on effect on the manufacturing and processing industries, where foreign investors could collaborate with locals in setting up state-of-the art processing industries.
That way, a locally driven economy whose growth rate is high creates opportunities for business prospects and thus establish business confidence.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa