Monday, 20 July 2015

CPC On the Structural Challenges of Zimbabwe’s National Economy: Position Paper Number 4.

Think. Act. Lead

Issue Date: Friday 17 July 2015

1. The Zimbabwean national economy, in it structural framework  (the state, private sector, social services and informal sector) has come to be both a political and ideological issue.  We immediately raise the structural dimension of debating our national economy because goods, services, and wealth are created within established frameworks by dint of either global best examples  or historically arrived at values and principles. In  both cases these two aspects have also historically been ideological (liberalism, neo-liberalism, socialism, communism, state-capitalism, nationalism).  

2. Historically our country’s economy has also been one that is largely characterized by a combination of mimicry of these same said economic models and ideas. On occasion with the best of intentions but in most cases out of sheer necessity but lack of thorough application to our national context.

3. Zimbabwe has now come full circle since our national independence, from being an economy that was initially supported by the remnants of a settler state capitalism while embarking on a socialist ideological economic intention to one that was to become liberal (free-market) in the 1990s decade of structural adjustment. 

This latter phase, while making pretensions at retaining the key role of the state in facilitating social welfare services (education, health, public transport subsidies) gave way to a stricter free market framework in which the state has all but withdrawn its role of ensuring that the basic needs of all citizens are met.  This is the neo-liberal version of our national economic policy that Zimbabwe is now experiencing.

4.  This is also despite the radical nationalism that informed what is now referred to as the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). While the latter was intended to be a means of redress for historical colonial injustice addressing, its occurrence has however been within the broader ambit of again, limited state support for new farmers and nascent manufacturers of agricultural end products.

4.1  Further expressions of radical nationalism within a neo-liberal economic context were to be found in the national indigenization policy that followed the FTLRP.  The targeting of foreign majority owned private corporations to cede at least 51% of their shares, while being a convenient carry over from the land reform programme was however not intended to be a wealth redistribution programme for all.  It has instead created a limited number of elites who with the passage of time and limited numbers of viable companies to indigenize also sought to acquire 51% ownership of banks, a tertiary service sector.

4.2 To this end, the neo-liberal framework that now informs our national economy has come to be exemplified by the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social and Economic  Transformation (ZIMASSET).  Its primary pretext of utilizing central government mortgaging state assets to public private partnerships across its clusters identified as food security; value addition; social services and poverty reduction; infrastructure and utilities and finally  value addition and beneficiation.  All in order to arrive at an economy where the social democratic obligations of the state to provide basic needs for all of its citizens are diminished.

4.3  This is why, for all the praise singing, ZimAsset is being implemented within the context of high levels of unemployment, lack of affordable healthcare, poor public transport services, ongoing endemic levels of corruption, lack of affordable housing and lack of affordable basic education.

5. It is this lived economic reality that while being imbued with abstract statements of good intention from the government, remains neo-liberal and elite centered.

5.1  In light of this structural framework, it is therefore imperative that there be greater analysis of the depressing realities that are our lived national economic realities.  This would entail understanding our economy to be characterized by the following:
a) A continued application of  various economic models and blueprints without a thorough appreciation and consideration of our national context in order to arrive at people-centered economic solutions
b) The use of radical nationalist rhetoric to paper over an elitist and predatory state capitalism under the guise of public private partnerships
c)  The individualization of the Zimbabwean citizen by way of personal debt  and repressive political laws that serve to make it near impossible for different alternatives and frameworks to be placed in the public domain
d)The dis-empowerment of the youth and women  of Zimbabwe through unemployment, lack of access to affordable basic and tertiary education, lack of access to affordable healthcare, public transport and land.
e)  The negation of the elderly and pensioners to the vagaries of the unaffordable cost of living.

5.2 In order to mitigate these undemocratic economic circumstances, it is imperative that all Zimbabweans consider the following:

a) Challenging the ideological framework of government’s economic policies in order to effect a shift from the current neo-liberal one to a social democratic grounding that recognizes that the role of the state remains that of ensuring basic needs for all citizens.  
This being done while simultaneously promoting innovation, protecting our local markets and democratically contextualizing every proposed new economic blueprint suggested by global trends.
b) Prioritizing the economic plight of the youth and elderly by crafting alternative social democratic economic policy frameworks that outline organic solutions in the immediate as well as the long term.
c)  Making gender an integral aspect of any alternative economic frameworks
d) Harnessing the input of the Zimbabwean Diaspora in crafting social democratic economic frameworks.
e) Lobbying the government of the day on these frameworks and remaining true to principle.

Issued by the Subcommittee on the National Economy and Social Welfare.

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