Discussion silent on common man interests
Whilst watching it, I made a Shylock-like bet with my friend that if the forum, during their discussion, ever mentioned social justice issues such as empowerment of the common man to effectively participate in the economy, then I offer my finger to be cut off.
Luckily for me, and as I expected, nothing of that sort was ever mentioned. But before I proceed, I must clarify what I mean by effective participation of the common man in the economy. I refer to a situation where ordinary Zimbabweans create a national economy through ownership of the means of production and accessing opportunities as well as directly benefiting from the wealth produced by the economy.
This ownership of the means of production can take the many complexes of socially, politically and financially engineered structures present in economics and business. But at the end of the day we need to see a national economy dominated by the majority of Zimbabweans and serving their interests and not that of a few.
Mozambique and Zambia have been growing their economies at an average five percent per annum over the past five years and yet there is little to show in terms of meaningful uplifting of people from their poverty. In the 2006 Human Development Index rankings of the United Nations Development Programme, they trail Zimbabwe, which has been experiencing a rapid slide since 2001.
suffering a similar fate as Zambia and Mozambique is
These countries are in fact, under the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programme. Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique occupy numbers 151, 165 and 168 respectively. Zambia though has moved one step up with Mozambique remaining at the same position while Tanzania has moved two steps up since 2005.
Despite sustained economic growth, it appears that the results for the ordinary Mozambicans has been modest at best. It would be interesting to watch, over the medium to long term how the fortunes of these countries would unwind. But one might argue that these countries are not reaping benefits of sustained economic growths as much as their foreign investors.
But back to the Cape Town meeting. Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Arthur Mutambara spoke with passion of his vision for Zimbabwe. He said he wanted to see a Zimbabwe with very high ambitions and not just modest aims such as only achieving economic stability. He said he wants to see a rise in the country’s gross domestic product – the amount of goods and services produced in an economy in a given period.
The problem is that he did not tell us how the increase in the GDP would translate to better lives for ordinary Zimbabweans. GDP scarcely tells us how these goods or money earned would be redistributed. For all we know the goods could be destined for external markets whose revenues would be invested abroad and not in Zimbabwe.
Mutambara did not tell his audience under what structure this GDP would be produced. From his past pronouncements, he has always favoured the neoliberal based global economy structure. But he has said little or nothing on how he is going to tame the long standing problems of farm subsidies, lack of desire to support primary commodity prices, and of course create a free and fair trading system, just to mention a few of the litany of long standing problems of the neoliberal based international economic system. Just after the Cape Town interviews, we got reports that he Doha trade talks had collapsed. These problems stand to directly challenge Mutambara’s grand ambitions and yet we hear little of that addressed.
More importantly, Mutambara has failed to allay our fears of the intentions of the Fishmonger thugs who want to make the land reform reversible as a prerequisite for international financial assistance. How would Mutambara reconcile the need to strengthen and even consolidate the land reforms on the one hand and surrendering to the demands of the Fishmongers who state that “land reforms” (read land reforms reversal) are part of broad prerequisites needed for the resumption of financial support for Zimbabwe, on the other?
Another myth that is tied to Mutambara’s economic recovery model is to romanticise the South Korean economic recovery and parade it as the epitome of success of economic structural adjustment programmes. But all these people who articulate this point fail to tell us that South Korea was deliberately given support as a means of protecting the geopolitical strategic interests of the United States against the perceived communist influence in that part of the region.
On The World Debate, John Page, the World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa region brought up the South Korean myth and suggested that Zimbabwe could be raised from its current state to dizzy heights. Well, we remain to have our scepticism proved wrong.
Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited’s Anthony Mandiwanza made a sound contribution. He said Zimbabwe should address the underlying reasons for the erosion of the middle class, which mainly lie on the issue of social justice. He said that while a few people were “ultra rich”, many were in abject poverty.
Mandiwanza, decried the difficulty, in many instances, of these “ultra rich” individuals to account for their wealth. Apparently, he was questioning how some of us, amid an economic depression could accrue such amount of exponential wealth whereby a small number of people are filthy rich. It seems that Mandiwanza is disapproving of the cancerous nature of corruption that has pervaded our nation.
The European Union representative stood up to suggest that they had not placed any economic sanctions on Zimbabwe but restrictions on certain government officials. According to Donald Losman, in his book titled International Economic Sanctions: The Cases of Cuba, Israel and Rhodesia, economic sanctions are penalties inflicted upon one or more states by one or more others, generally to coerce the target nation(s) to comply with certain norms that the boycott initiators deem proper or necessary.
The forms that economic sanctions take also include interfering or restricting the movement of people, restriction of capital flows and withholding wealth in the boycotting countries. Patterson Timba of ReNaissance Financial Holdings argued that even if we suppose that the EU did not apply the economic sanctions as the EU suggested, it had ultimately caused the boycott of many companies by the Western banks that cite political risk as the factor not to extend lines of credit to them. Disturbing lines of credit and starving the Zimbabwe government of international financial assistance has been the “targeted” nature of the EU economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
This brings my second definition into consideration, which also describes economic sanctions.
Writing in the American Journal of Political Science, Yale University assistant professor Nikolay Marinov’s essay titled Do Economic Sanctions Destabilize Country Leaders?, defines economic sanctions as “government-inspired restrictions on customary trade or aid relations, designed to promote political objectives”. The reasons the EU gave as evidence that they did not apply economic sanctions were in fact evidence against them that they have indeed applied economic sanctions because restricting movements of people is considered economic sanctions.
By failing to articulate
the red hot ambitions of the ordinary people to own and benefit from
their resources, Mutambara once again failed to show us how if, as the
leader of Zimbabwe, he is going to empower us so that, as Mandiwanza
said, we could be able to participate in the economy just like the rest
of the ultra rich individuals.
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