For more than a decade, Zimbabwe has been limping from one economic dilemma to another with various sectors constantly clutching at straws as they continue to drown in the economic whirlpool.
But over the past five years, the situation has increasingly seemed unsalvageable as specialist after specialist has hinted at possible panacea after panacea to the country’s woes,to no avail.
Headlining the news are stories of mass actions, non-salary payments, company closures, evictions, poverty and strife. Recently one newspaper pointed to a dying economy and such news has left the whole country wondering if at all the local economy is still alive.
Veteran economist John Robertson believes that saying the economy is dead would be an exaggeration, although his diagnosis commits the nation to the intensive care unit(ICU).
“The economy is failing to perform because its foundation has been destroyed,” Robertson said.
“And the foundation we are talking about here is basic property rights, which instill confidence in those able to work for the economy’s health to do that.”
He blamed policies such as the land reform programme and indigenisation for killing the will in people to innovate and invest towards prosperous business entities.
The land reform programme sanctioned war veterans, agitating for land, to invade and possess productive white-owned farms.
The government then came up with an indigenisation policy directing all foreign-owned companies to cede 51% shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans.
This resulted in massive land and company grabs, which unfortunately enabled unhindered pillage of resources.
One standout case is the Kintyre Estate, which was reduced to a wasteland after an ambitious project to turn the evergreen farm into commercial and housing plots failed to materialise.
Robertson says the current economic tribulations are testimony the country was once a fortress which had now been reduced to ruins.
“We are living in ruins; that is why there is no reliable supply of water or power while the country is littered with decay in the name of potholes, failing street and traffic lights and lack of other basic services,” he added.
He implored thegovernment to stop shooting doctors who could revive economic performance.
“There needs to be clear policy where people know that if they invest their resources, they would reap the benefits. Unfortunately, the situation as it is implies that once you work hard and set up a thriving institution, those more powerful politically can strip you and take over that investment,” Robertson said.
Such seems to be the curse on any profitable organisation as the indigenisation hymn is being sung to all from banks to mines.
“It’s as if building a prosperous institution lures vultures and so most are deciding not to work for prosperity at all.”
Recently, the government announced its decision to close Telecel Zimbabwe, one of the few companies fighting through the fiscal battle, for failing to comply with indigenisation laws.
This attracted nationwide outcries as people questioned the logic behind closing a functioning entity in an environment where most were folding.
While the corporate wars rage on, the government is constantly failing to pay workers on time; strikes and demonstrations have become the order of the day and institutions continue to close shop.
Robertson decried the authorities’ failure to support development-oriented policies.
“Instead of calling for shareholding in firms, they should be trying to support the surviving companies, but it is demotivating key players who know what should be done to fix things.
“The government should be going to the firms to seek ideas on how it could carry out its mandate to ensure electricity and water supply which then boost industry,” he added.
He said both failing and surviving institutions were laden with innovative minds which were idle because there were no incentives to work in the country.
“They know what they need and could advise on how to get it, but the State decides to only say hand over what you have,” Robertson said.
He drew from his resemblance of the economy to a patient in the ICU and said the government’s duty was to nurse it.
“But the decisions it makes are like bullying, harassing and manhandling a patient on the deathbed and the patient is not responding well,” he said.