By Sij Ncube
HARARE, October 26 – ZIMBABWE launches its first ever National Competitiveness Report (NCR) Thursday under the auspices of the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) envisaged to turn-around the country’s comatose economy as well as spruce its battered international image but critics doubt the Zanu PF administration has the political wherewithal to push through the well-thought out report.
With President Robert Mugabe scheduled to attend the Indian African summit in India, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to officially launch the NCR at the Harare International Conference Centre, sources said.
NECF executive secretary Norman Chakanetsa, told a press conference Monday Zimbabwe’s economic turnaround has to be anchored on factual assessment of the economic opportunities, constraints and policy reforms that need attention.
“Developed by the NECF through a national consultative process that covered all major towns and economic hubs, the NCR report is designed as a critical tool in enabling Zimbabwe’s economic actors to achieve the robust economic target of attaining 7% GDP growth contained in the Government’s economic plan, Zim Asset,” said Chakanetsa.
“The report comes at an opportune time as all sectors are focused on economic revival, and identifying opportunities for growth and prosperity for our society. The NCR primarily seeks to make a contribution on the “Ease of Doing Business” and “Business Cost Drivers”, he said.
He added that in coming up with a NCR, the country has recognised the influence of the annual World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index and Doing Business Indicators, while at the same time recognizing the limitations inherent in their methodologies or abilities to tell a complete story of Zimbabwe.
“The NECF believes Zimbabwe Economic and social sectors need to localise research hence actions that address economic turn-around strategies. The ownership of information and knowledge production is key for sustainable policy interventions and actions. The NECF believes the NCR, as a result of its broad consultative process and ownership of findings, represent a true assessment of Zimbabwe’s economic competiveness, drawing on many globally comparable indicators as well as national information, added Chakanetsa.
Zimbabwe is not the first country to carry out such an exercise as other countries, among them, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Senegal have also done so with a view to improving the business environment in their countries in a manner that makes them competitive. The reports for Pakistan, Senegal and Egypt were particularly useful as models in the development of the Zimbabwe NCAR.
Defined as a “snapshot” of a country’s actual and evolving competitiveness, presented through credible data and its interpretation, the Zimbabwe NCAR notes that Zimbabwe’s competitive advantages are:
- The quality of human resources is perhaps Zimbabwe’s greatest competitive advantage with literacy rates above 92% and Zimbabweans are in high demand throughout the region, a result of the Government’s deliberate policy focusing on universal education.
- Abundant natural resources that include rich mineral deposits, arable tracks of land, flora and fauna, abundant sunlight and water.
- Economic diversity is another competitive advantage and includes agriculture, mining, manufacturing tourism and many other service industries.
- Zimbabwe’s excellent weather and strategic location make it an ideal destination for investment to serve regional markets.
Chakanetsa said these competitive advantages, among others, will also drive the attainment of the economic growth goals.
The report notes constraints to Zimbabwe’s competitiveness and proffers platforms for uptake by the governments and its agencies, private sector, civil society and SMEs.
It will also promote accountability for implementation of policies and initiative by providing an annual “dashboard” for measuring and evaluating competitiveness improvements, mobilize popular understanding and support for competitiveness-related reforms.
But critics and opposition, who blame the Zanu (PF) administration of presiding over the demise of the economy, claim the Mugabe is worried by internal strife in his party as factions battle to succeed him at the expense of the economy.
“There are numerous high-sounding economic blue-prints and well-meaning reports gathering dust in government drawers which this government is not implementing. The NCR might suffer the same fact,” said Jacob Mafume, the spokesman for Peoples Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti.
“There is no political will to revitalise the economy. I am afraid the works of good meaning economists and other experts who worked on the report might come to naught,” he said.
But Howard Rosen, one of the consultants who helped craft the report, said Zimbabwe should be welcomed “to the world of economies of the world that have been participating in competitive reports in the past 20 years.
“Countries that have participated have found the reports very useful in assisting then develop their economies and improve the livelihoods of their people,” said Rosen.