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health, public transport subsidies) gave way to a stricter free market framework in which the state has all but withdrawn its role of ensuring that the basic needs of all citizens are met.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.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Diaspora and Resuscitating Zimbabwe’s economy

Increasing the Diaspora contribution to the national economy is to increase their rights as well.

Position Paper Number 3

Issued 8 July 2015

1.0 The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) notes that the development of any nation is chiefly driven by its citizens – both within and without the country. The latter constitutes a rich cross-section of the country’s human capital that is resident in other countries, constituted by both skilled and unskilled labour. This population is commonly referred to as the Diaspora.

1.1 Various reasons, to varying degrees, and over different time periods have led to many Zimbabweans leaving the country; the post 2000 political and economic instability being the most recent to have forced citizens to leave the country.

1.2 It is currently estimated that 3 or 4 million Zimbabweans are living abroad, the greater majority being resident in Southern Africa. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paper on ‘The Potential Contribution of the Zimbabwe Diaspora to Economic Recovery’ produced in 2010 suggests that South Africa alone is estimated to have in excess of 2 million Zimbabweans, and close to half a million in the UK.

1.3 The general trend has seen Zimbabweans migrating to countries with more developed democratic cultures such as South Africa, the UK, USA, Botswana, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This postulates the absence or lack of democracy or a democratic culture in Zimbabwe as a major push factor influencing this outward migration.

1.4 This departure of the skilled labour component has immensely contributed to the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’ which consequently has had a negative impact on economic growth and overall development. This flight of skilled personnel has had the most negative impact on the health and education systems.

2.0 For a long time now, and especially in the wake of a deteriorating economy, Zimbabwe has been receiving substantial support from her Diaspora. This support has been mostly in the form of remittances to family and friends, as well as transfers between people and organizations.

2.1 Official figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe show that in 2013 alone, Zimbabwe received US$1, 8 billion through money transfer agencies and the formal banking sector, though this represents a slight decline from the 2012 figures of around US$2, 1 billion.

2.2 The government of Zimbabwe has as a result moved to capitalize on this reality with manoeuvres being made to tap from this huge inflow of funds so that the local economy benefits from Diaspora savings.

2.3 Recently the Minister of Finance has proposed for the government to formalize platforms for engagement with the Diaspora through the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Programme (ZDHIP).

2.4 This is emanating from the reality that the vast majority of remittances to Zimbabwe by her Diaspora are not coming through official government channels, from which the government can tap into and be able to drive the Diaspora savings’ contribution to the national economy.

2.5 Many cite distrust of the government by its citizens as the main reason, especially in its (government’s) handling of the banking sector in particular, and the economy in general.

3.0 However, these enthusiastic manoeuvres to tap into the contribution of the Diaspora have not been matched by equal enthusiasm to accord the Diaspora their rights as legitimate, well-serving and patriotic citizens of Zimbabwe.

3.1 Of particular concern is the constant denial, despite spirited albeit false claims by the drafters of our constitution of the inclusion of the provision for a Diaspora vote, which does not exist in the current national constitution.

3.2 This contempt for the Diaspora by the regime is also noted in the silence of key blueprints such as Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) which fails to capture the contribution of the Zimbabwean Diaspora to the establishment of a genuinely sustainable socio-economic transformation.

3.3 Indeed, and to the contrary, we have had to listen time and again as Zanu PF and at times government representatives pour scorn on the Diaspora for having exercised their right to search for greener pastures outside Zimbabwe as the economy continues to deteriorate.

3.4 While a significant majority has left the country for chiefly economic reasons, an almost equal proportion cite bad governance and politics as the reason compelling their departure to other countries. Some have genuinely fled persecution of all kind from the ruling elite as it has used every possible trick in the book to hold on to power.

4.0 It is the humble submission of the Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) that any engagement with the Zimbabwean Diaspora especially where it pertains to their contribution to the development of the nation should be hinged on the genuine recognition of Zimbabweans abroad, as full and legitimate citizens of this country, with equal rights and opportunities as citizens resident in the country.

4.1 The government should genuinely recognize the Diaspora as part of our country’s demography and therefore ensure that the same rights as enjoyed by citizens resident in the country are also accorded to and enjoyed by the Diaspora.

4.2 Chief among these rights is the right to be involved in the governance of their country; this by being accorded the constitutionally prescribed right to ‘vote in all elections and referendums’.

4.3 There is no judicious reason for the Zimbabwean Diaspora to be denied this fundamental right to participate in elections from which-ever country they are resident, through the same means by which other citizens resident, such as state employees at foreign embassies in the Diaspora are accorded an opportunity to vote.

4.4 The inherent right of the Diaspora to contribute to the national economy and to the general development of the country should be matched by the enjoyment of the Diaspora of all fundamental rights and freedoms that are accorded to all citizens of Zimbabwe by the national constitution.

5.0 It should be inherent upon government to ensure that it engages with all its citizens, both within and outside the country, so that it is primarily the needs, wishes and aspirations of these citizens that informs national progress and development.

5.1 This should ideally begin with the inclusive drafting of a holistic Diaspora Policy Paper that takes into consideration the needs of all citizens; taking into consideration the existence of both push and pull factors influencing outward migration from Zimbabwe.

5.2 Serious thought should be made by all stakeholders, including government, business and civil society actors towards the formulation of an inclusive ‘Framework for Re-engaging the Diaspora’. This should take into consideration the diversity that exists within the Diaspora and how they also feed into various spheres of the well-functioning of the nation state.

5.3 Government must also take it as its chief responsibility, to creating an environment that will encourage its citizens to stay in the country and also more importantly encourage those outside to return, and champion the development and progress of the nation.

5.4 Consideration should also be put on building the confidence and collective trust of citizens in the governance and overall macro-economic management of the country, as basics, in retaining as well as attracting skilled labour in both the private and public sectors.

5.5 It should be noted that while Diaspora remittances may be critical in supporting households and alleviating poverty in the short-term, the return of skilled labour in both the public and private sectors can be a sure cog in the long term economic stability and development of the country.

5.6 It is and should be one of the government’s key priorities to ensure that the environment in the country is sufficient to accord all citizens, without discrimination on whatever grounds, equal opportunities and right to self-actualization; this in pursuit of a socially just, democratic and open society, based on the fundamental ideal of a social democratic state, where citizens own and drive national processes, progress and development.

Issued by the Diaspora and International Solidarity Committee of the Committee of the Peoples Charter