THE incoming Cabinet has a difficult task ahead.
Before it even resumes office, Zimbabweans have been making their expectations known during formal and informal discussions that have been going on ever since the July 31 elections.
The majority simply want to go on with their lives freely; without having to look back over their shoulder to see if “big brother” is watching.
Apart from being guaranteed of their freedoms, Zimbabweans want the new government to improve the availability of social services, especially health and education.
The quality of social services has declined over the past 13 years because of mismanagement of the few resources available. The illiquid market conditions have worsened the situation by drastically curtailing government’s capacity to deliver.
Cabinet must not hesitate to crack the whip and straighten up public officials who either sleep behind the wheel or allow malpractices to stand in the way of service delivery in order to deal with the mismanagement of public resources, which is quite rampant.
The “jobs for boys” mentality which favours association at the expense of ability can also not be allowed to continue: Emphasis, going forward, should be on deployment of skills according to best fit to uproot nepotism, a subtle form of corruption.
Tied to that, government cannot continue to preach its abhorrence of corruption without walking the talk. Talk is cheap.
But the biggest hurdle for President Robert Mugabe’s administration remains the liquidity crisis, which is slowing down economic activity.
Markets are currently illiquid because industry and commerce are shrinking due to a wide range of issues among them poor government policies; the inability by companies to re-tool; the absence of concessional credit and the lack of balance of payments support either through donor funding or support from multilateral lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Dealing with these multifaceted challenges cannot be done overnight: Government must draw up a programme of action whose implementation can be broken down into what needs to be done in the short, medium to long term.
In the short-term, focus should be on crafting policies that rekindle market confidence and avoid the transmission of conflicting messages which confuse investors.
With the right policies, confidence in the economy can rebound, resulting in improved foreign direct investment and repatriation of funds that might have been externalised. It would be folly for the incoming government to expect foreigners to ease the liquidity crunch by pumping funds into the economy without the locals leading from the front.
There must also be serious effort towards reviving economic turbines such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism which lie at the heart of Zimbabwe’s economy.
In agriculture, the availability of funding cannot be over-emphasised and so is the need for indigenous farmers to be equipped with the requisite skills to fully utilise the land. Those who cannot farm should make way for others who are capable of unlocking value from the soil.
Of late, mining has shown a lot of potential which can be exploited by streamlining the cumbersome tax regime frustrating miners and moving towards the beneficiation of minerals.
The United Nations World Tourism General Assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia has also helped put the country on the world map. The momentum gathered in the resort towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone between August 24 and 29 needs to be maintained to drive tourism arrivals and improve revenue generation.
Any recovery in agriculture would benefit the manufacturing sector whose convalescence is also dependent on what the incoming government would do to capacitate power utility, ZESA Holdings, Hwange Colliery Company Limited and allowing independent power producers to augment energy supply.
Another must for the government is the need to walk the talk on parastatal reforms. Only last month, we highlighted the crisis at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) where the amount of cargo moved has dropped by 85 percent since 1992 from 12 million tonnes to 1,7 million tonnes in 2011. About US$2 billion in fresh capital is needed to revive the parastatal.
Zimbabwe has over 50 parastatals operating below capacity; the bulk of them are perennial loss-makers, which are draining the fiscus due to their dependence on Treasury support.
Former state enterprises and parastatals minister Gorden Moyo recently said his successor should be given full legislative authority if the revival of the State entities is to be realised. He told The Financial Gazette that he could have done more during his tenure but was constrained by lack of legislative authority.
“As a minister, I never administered a single Act; I had a lot of responsibilities but without authority which I could have used to turn around NRZ, Cold Storage Company (CSC), Air Zimbabwe and so forth, so I was just carrying the title without authority,” he said.
“My duty-free advice to ZANU-PF is that they have to identify key parastatals such as the NRZ, Grain Marketing Board, CSC and so forth and place them under one ministry with full legislative authority for them to be viable,” said Moyo.
While Moyo might not be the right person to give such advice considering that he was happy all along to preside over a ministry that he knew was unable to effectively discharge its duties and that he did nothing about it, the next government cannot afford to continue to pay lip service to parastatal reforms.
A word of caution! President Mugabe’s government should also be realistic about its programme of action and must not to let emotions get the better of its judgment.
In the run-up to the elections, there was so much emphasis on indigenisation and economic empowerment focusing on the re-allocation of wealth from the haves to the have nots in a manner that could worsen the plight of the very same people whom the ZANU-PF government wants to please.
It might be worthwhile to revisit the indigenisation debate to ensure that whatever course of action the government would eventually take does not disrupt economic recovery.
President Mugabe must avoid carrying passengers in his Cabinet if his government is to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans who are wallowing in poverty.
Those who cannot deliver must be shown the exits without hesitation.