By Eric Tinashe Muzamhindo
We have positive and negative connotations on the impact of covid – 19 on our economy. I will provide a comprehensive analysis on how Government can tackle this pandemic and re-build the economy.
We have few lessons to learn from this experience and at the same time, we have to come up with proper framework to address fundamental apsects towards critical sectors of the economy. As a development practitioner and Policy Advisor, I will provide alternative which will be formulated for proper checks and balances to our ailing economy and situation.
1. Covid – 19 taskforce must be inclusive
In the past our Government was struggling to balance on the aspect of transparency and accountability on all resources which find themselves to the national fiscus, and this led to international creditors and development partners to work with civic society and other organizations. I would urge President Mnangagwa to accomodate academics, researchers, Policymakers, private sector, business community, Entrepreneurs and legislators to widen the taskforce by ensuring accountability and transparency is part of this project. So far figures are not yet known to the public , how much was contributed towards the pandemic and how much is left, and who was awarded such tenders and on what basis. Which criteria did the Government through the Ministry of Health select to award those tenders. Transparency and accountability is one of the key components of Governance and Leadership.
2. Covid – 19 an opportunity to decentralise our economic activities
Whilst I appreciate the lockdown measures put by the Government five weeks ago, it is prudent to come up with measures and alternatives to provide economic solutions to jumpstart the economy. There is a serious global recession and economies have suffered major setbacks, and we may witness the collapse of several companies. It was not necessary to have a total lockdown, I would recommend the Government to decentralise service providers such as Small and Medium Enterprises ( SMEs), by allocating them proper places to do their businesses. I will give an example, we can have people from Kuwadzana have their own designated places for business, we can have people from Marlborough with their own places. This will minimize costs, reduce unnecessary movements and reduce the high risk of infection. This will improve cash flows, ease liquidity crunch and also promote local trade and movement of necessities and promote free market economy.
3. Robust changes to develop a Proper Development Policy
We can learn a few experiences with what we witnessed from global giants like South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, key European countries such as German, Australia and Netherlands etc. These countries came up with stimulus packages to rescue their economies, and Zimbabwe had challenges on preparedness. Let me clarify by saying, we lack strategic preparedness on how to tackle Covid – 19. Few days ago the President announced an 18 Billion stimulus package, which would aid industry and other critical sectors of the economy which could not be justified in practical terms. We are moving into the fifth week under lockdown regulations, we are yet to witness the 18 Billion stimulus package. Previously, Finance Minister Muthuli Ncube announced that he was going to release more than 500 Million cushion allowances fund, and each citizen was supposed to receive at least 1000 eco cash back up, and we have nothing to show and we are almost entering into the sixth week . It is important for the Government, a well respected institution to speak the truth, and walk the talk, so build trust between citizens and public sector.
– Food distribution must be done by ward councillors & Mps or district heads. It is not necessary for whole some Ministers to be found everywhere in villages distributing food humpers. This will result in reducing the office of respected Ministers.
– Receiving donations must be done by Covid – 19 taskforce or Health department. It may not be necessary to have the presidum team or Vice Presidents receiving donations or even Ministers receiving refrigerators.
– Presidency is a strong office which must never be undermined or underrated and this will result in the Office of the Presidency being reduced to a club
4. Opportunity to re-build relations with International partners
Covid – 19 was going to be an opportunity to mend relations with development partners and International creditors. The taskforce was supposed to give regular updates on how resources were being managed on daily basis and give proper regular reports on financial matters.
6. Opportunity to unite the nation
I watched a clip of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing South Africa at a brief briefing together with his political nemesis and arch rivalry Julius Malema, and this would boost confidence within potential investors and local confidence. Today South Africa is flourishing with donations, resources, international support because they used the opportunity to demonstrate unity of purpose.
7. Priority was given to critical sectors of the economy
If Zimbabwean Government prioritised the five critical sectors of the economy, namely :
3. Infrastructure Development
Our economy would be a contributory factor towards national development agenda. We have miles to go on our economy.
# Re – direction of our expenditure is critical
4.3 Billion which disappeared from Command Agriculture facility could have been directed to Manufacturing sector.
1.2 Billion Command Agriculture fund could have gone a long way to rescue the ailing Health, Mining, Education sector. It was an embarrassment to receive ventilators from donors, yet we had 1.3 Billion which disappeared at the disguise of Command Agriculture
– Total of 9 Billion USD for Command Agriculture is nowhere to be found near the National fiscus.
Donations must never a grand plan to clean dirty money.
– Agriculture Ministry in conjunction with local financial institutions ( Banks) , must be in charge of SMART AGRICULTURE
Lessons drawn from Covid – 19 experience :
1. Opportunity to re- invent ourselves. Change of mindset is key. Opportunity to unite and come together as one family. Partisan food distribution should era of the past.
2. Research and Development must be a priority. We need resources for Academics who will come up with theories on Covid – 19 and other pandemics. Research institutions must be strengthened
3. Promotion of skills development
4. Implement tele – working and virtual meetings to save travel costs
5. Technological advancement in all critical sectors of the economy
6. Informal sector which plays a huge role on local and foreign currency circulation are out of business. There must be a proper business model and framework to address such fundamentals
8. Incapacitated institutions have been seriously exposed such as Health , Education and ICT
9. Aggressive expansion of fibre networks is critical to enhance effective communication
10. Instead of travelling to unnecessary summits and globe trotting, senior Government officials, President and Cabinet Ministers must take advantage of fibre networks such Zoom meetings etc. Channel all the savings towards critical sectors of the economy
11. Public expenditure is reduced , unnecessary movements and people are confined to their systems and areas. People can work from home and save costs.
12. Clean Environment. I want to applaud the Government for taking necessary measures to clean all the cities but I encourage them to find proper designated places for vendors, SMEs and other players to improve their livelihood
13. Climate changes for the better. Less vehicles and less distortions.
14. Address trade barriers. We have depend on imports and 97.5% of our economy is informal sector, they largely depend on goods from our neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. There is need for Government to work in hand with their counter parts on how to deal with such situations.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST – COVID – 19 is now a NEW NORMAL
We must accept that it’s now reality and learn to live with it. What am I saying? I’m simply saying open the economy and come up with measures to address fundamental aspects, health issues, proper regulations to safeguard the public. We need food on the table, at the same time, we must learn to live with it. Covid – 19 is around us, let’s open the economy and find ways to improve our livelihood
15. Two week lockdown was not necessary. Let’s have robust changes to address economic challenges and come up with proper framework to deal with matters at hand.
I Thank You
Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo is a Researcher and Policy Advisor. He is also the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Institute of Strategic Thinking ( ZIST), and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org