Develop me :Tapiwa Gomo
AFRICAN countries have continued to face a huge dilemma in strategising their development models. Most countries face a daunting challenge on whether to be more inclined towards economic or social development. There is wide range of reasons, though some not so teleological, underpinning this conundrum. And in most cases, the choice of approach is largely influenced by political considerations over development.
Most major global economies are built on the foundation of economic development models which presume that when major economic sectors such as agriculture, mining, industry, trade, transport, irrigation, power resources and others have improved, they will have a trickle down effect on social development. This is the case, at least, with most Western economies that were established in the 17th up to 20th centuries — which today have stronger welfare systems. For most of these, the ability of their societies to sustain themselves largely depends on their key economic sectors’ ability to thrive with a stronger knock-on effect on other dependent sectors.
When major economic sectors improve, they remit taxes needed to run government affairs, spruce up the service industry and banking sectors and create an environment which enables the improvement of economic conditions of the people. This includes creation of employment and other economic opportunities. The model also assumes that better employment and economic opportunities increase incomes which enable people to improve their standard of life.
Its critics, however, argued that it is a centralised approach which ensures that government support towards economic growth is only channelled to few individuals who run the economy with the rest of population reduced to providing labour. However, in a scenario where proper national planning is in place, it is possible to dovetail national economic development with community-level economic development to ensure that economic activity is not only limited to huge corporates.
To achieve this, an efficient and robust community driven economic sector will need to be based on effective social development strategy. This means that if an economic development programme has been effective in sustaining government fiscal requirements, part of the resources can be used to implement a national social development plan with the goal to improve the well-being of every individual in society and to ensure they can achieve their full potential. While effective economic development strategies can help to improve the national development indicators, the real success is seen in how nations and societies facilitate the wellbeing of each and every citizen.
This entails the provision of public healthcare, education, housing, drinking water, power and others which together contribute to an improvement in the standard of life and citizens’ social status. Depending on various factors which form the overall context, improvements in these depends on economic development. Zimbabwe is partly in the same scenario, where when the agro-based economy was disrupted and destroyed by politics, all the layers above it crumbled, the after-effects of which are limited government financial resources leading to its inability to meet the social development requirements.
Over the past two decades, the challenge has been that the government was pursuing both economic and social development programmes oblivious of its own dwindled income base — notwithstanding leakages such as corruption and plunder. For a country that is at its weakest economically, it is an insurmountable task to do so which explains why our take-off since the year 2000 has been futile.
But there is another option of building the capacity of citizens to be more self-sustaining in a way that when the centralised economic development model plunges, the country can count on its community-based economic output to cushion itself. If successful, it takes care of the costs of essentials such as public healthcare, education, housing, drinking water, power and others from government burden.
However, for that to happen, it requires the elimination of barriers to enable citizens to work towards achieving their dreams with confidence and dignity. It is rooted in the empowerment model which refuses to accept that citizens who live in poverty cannot work themselves out of it. It is about creating conditions that enable people towards self-sufficiency. This is the approach most African countries need to adopt given that government resources are by far inadequate to sustain national social development programmes.
Why is this necessary for Zimbabwe? The land reform programme killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. Since 2000, the country’s leadership has been at “sixes and sevens” trying to figure out a way out of this conundrum. With more pressure mounting, they have been squeezed in a corner, where their survival now depends on the use of force instead of addressing the basic fundamentals.
Using force on an increasingly impoverished people does not and will not address the problem as more and more people will be hungry and angry, malnourished, sick and die. More children will miss out on essentials such as education and access to clean water and sanitation. A generation is fast losing its future as the ruling elite dabbles in flimsy politics. That the government is now increasingly obsessed with focusing on perceived enemies is a sure sign of failure and loss of understanding of real priorities.