Mugabe's 'Cents-Less' Ten Point Plan [column] (allAfrica.com)

President Mugabe deliberately evaded the Eleventh Point because he resents and despises effective democracy.”

Each one of us – during our childhood or as teenagers – have at one time or another knocked our big toe against a stone (ukukhubeka, kugumbugwa), banged our heads against the corner of an open window, got a finger squeezed by a closing door or knocked an elbow against a hard surface. In all four circumstances, the result is always excruciating, numbing pain. The good news though is that as we mature we begin to be more aware of the dangers that surround us and learn to avoid such painful encounters.

In the same manner, listening to President Robert Mugabe’s much maligned ‘Ten-Point Plan’ narrated in Parliament Tuesday last, I and millions of other progressive Zimbabweans felt the same (knock against) pain. I am not one too comfortable commenting directly on what other political leaders say as I have my own ‘commentable’ weaknesses.

Yet as President of MDC, when I see that President Mugabe and his band of misguided paratroopers never seem to learn from (knock against) pain, I feel obliged to express myself on behalf of many irritated Zimbabweans, some of whom have responded to his none state of the nation address with calls for his resignation. One can understand the frustrations and the increasing realization by many that as we have said again and again, we are governed by a clueless government which is totally bombazzled by the real state of the nation and knows not what to do. Where is ZimAsset in all this?

For the past thirty-five years during national, commemorative and Parliamentary opening days, Zimbabweans have had to put up with President Mugabe’s long and uninspiring speeches. Him and the ruling party Zanu PF party have failed to breathe life into our political economy, nonetheless dazzling us with all manner of ‘recovery plans’. In fact, Zanu PF is responsible for the state of economic and political disequilibrium in our country; a sense of disequilibrium it seems unable to comprehend. Thus, whether President Mugabe rambles on for one hour or hides behind a Ten Point Plan in thirty minutes, the result has always been the same – hot air, no dollars and no cents.

Cents in that when the leader of a nation takes time to address issues; such an address should not only make business sense but also show how it adds ‘money’ into the pockets of desperately poor Zimbabweans. Our lives revolve around money – disposable incomes to buy food, clothes, medicine and pay school fees for our children, electricity, telephones, transport, fuel and, reading materials, seed, fertiliser and other services.

We toil day and night because we want to make money – just enough to survive under the circumstances. It is Zanu PF that has made our ‘cents-less lives’ progressively unbearable. From the year 2000 to 2009, President Mugabe’s ruinous economic policies destroyed the confidence we had in the Zimbabwe dollar, until the currency became ‘cents-less’. We are now one of the few, if not the only country in the world, without our own national currency. And President Mugabe is still speaking! And continue to speak cluelessly he will.

If you therefore take a closer look at his Ten Point Plan, you will see nothing but hot air, egotistic, self-praising rhetoric. We have heard the same points many times over in previous Zanu PF electoral manifestos. However, as leader of a progressive, social democratic party, I am not one to mourn without proffering sustainable alternatives.

What would I have said in ten points had I been President of Zimbabwe, under the current painful circumstances? Would I have restored the courage and confidence that Zimbabweans should have in the future? Could I have managed to recover national pride? I definitely think so. Here is why.

Mugabe talks about revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain. As I wrote last week, it is critical to restore property rights and return market value into agricultural land, so farmers can present bankable plans. Crop and grain research must be strengthened to mitigate climate change while extension services and irrigation efficacy has to be attended to. The spin-off effect will be seen in industry which is agri-based.

Advancing beneficiation and value addition can only be possible where we have sophisticated industrial efficiency, by adopting policies that reverse capital flight so factories can be re-capitalised to attract new machinery, economies of large-scale production, product and price competitiveness. Infrastructural development, particularly in the key energy, water, transport and ICTs subsectors is dependent on our capacity to attract ‘off-shore’, long-term and affordable billion-dollar partnerships. A smaller and efficient government releases more money into capital expenditure rather than public services salaries.

Unlocking the potential of Small to Medium Enterprises begins with organised micro finance and strategic alliances with blue-chip corporates. Once there is banking confidence, borrowing-to-do-business is easier while higher disposable incomes can support SME products and services without being stifled by cheap imports.

Encouraging private sector investment has, as I have mentioned, to do with good investment and labour policies, affordable/accessible finance, a functional banking system, a vibrant middle-income consumer market and comparative advantage. Without our own currency, it will be difficult to restore and build confidence and stability in the financial services sector. It is the citizens that save money, thus if they cannot generate enough of it, they will keep the little they have under their pillows. Strict banking controls and a liquid Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe are part of this restoration calculus.

Most vibrant economies survive on joint ventures and public private partnerships, but ‘boosting the role and performance of State-owned companies’ is not the way. The state should stay out of business, unless, like in the case of Ethiopian Airways, such companies like TelOne, GMB, Railways become 100% private state entities with properly constituted, professional boards.

I am not sure what ‘modernising labour laws’ means, but certainly the ‘new’ labour law has no ‘win-win’ content. Modern labour laws are those in line with ILO provisions, offering job security but also reassuring employers that the labour market does not become our albatros around their necks.

Our national Constitution and laws have sufficient teeth to deal with corruption – only if adhered to. A functional, independent anti corruption commission with suitable investigative and ‘arresting’ powers backed by a professional judiciary and police is the panacea to corruption. Professional, well-remunerated, highly motivated, efficient public service that adheres to strict code of behaviour adds value to this point.

President Mugabe finally refers to implementation of Special Economic Zones to provide the impetus for foreign direct investment. According to Wikipedia, “in these zones business and trades laws differ from the rest of the country. … The aims of the zones include: increased trade, increased investment, job creation and effective administration.” My strong belief is that Zimbabwe in its entirety must be an SEZ with fair, just and liberal tax, trade, customs ad labour regulations.

We need better incentives and more progressive investment policies. This will encourage export-oriented toll manufacturing and regional competitiveness, especially for neglected regions like Masvingo, Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo. Successful SEZs are in Bangladesh (Chittagong); Cambodia, and of course, Guangdong province (China). Ethiopia has Oriental in Dukem (near Addis) that produces electrical machinery, construction materials, steel and metallurgy.

Elsewhere, Mauritius’ Jinfei Economic Trade and Cooperation Zone produces excellent textiles while South Korean SEZs are designated by law to “facilitate foreign investment, and thereby to strengthen national competitiveness and seek balanced development among regions by improving the business environment for foreign-invested enterprises and living conditions for foreigners”. The China Ferrous Metal Mining Corporation SEZ in Zambia “focuses on garments, food, appliances, tobacco and electronics combining expedited customs and administration procedures with tax incentives, to attract increased investment”.

My conclusion is that President Mugabe deliberately evaded the Eleventh Point because he resents and despises effective democracy. Zimbabwe needs to adhere to proper constitutionalism so we can have free, fair and credible elections. We have a dysfunctional Parliament paralysed by Zanu PF hegemony. This portrays a banana republic, failed state, high country risk impression that repels international friendship and cooperation. What we need are more cents and dollars in our pockets and less political hot air.