Zim Asset: sleek reality or sloppy slogan

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THE eventful year 2013 witnessed the end of tenure of the GNU in an election widely endorsed by African election observers from regional blocs as free, fair and credible but instantly given the not-credible seal of disapproval by the West. The opposition disputed the election results and were well within their rights to challenge the outcome and file a petition at the Constitutional Court which upheld President Mugabe’s victory.
The International community (another term for the US and Europe) expressed and have continued to express reservations publicly on the ‘credibility’ of the electoral process which has meant delays in their re-engagement with the Zimbabwe government. The government of Zimbabwe has remained widely open to positive re-engagement with all its international development partners, past and present.
Following on from the landslide victory, the government has put precedence on economic convalescence and revival. There has been a genuine commitment to address the issues of re-engagement with the ‘international community’, employment creation and regenerating the dilapidated infrastructure.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently went to the IMF and World Bank as part of the re-engagement process and to reopen lines of credit and attract the much needed direct foreign investment. The IMF has placed Zimbabwe on a Staff Monitoring Programme (SMP) as a condition for re-engagement with Zimbabwe if successful implemented and government has remained committed to the programme.
The government, in a positive move to stimulate economic growth, has launched robust reforms. The government launched ZimAsset which is a results-based management economic blue-print with the aim of increasing and improving quality of government expenditure, increasing productivity and competitiveness and improving the business environment as a whole. The financial sector has remained constrained and vulnerable to external and internal shocks and government has not been performing as effectively as it should in terms of revenue collection, in particular the alleged weak diamond revenues. In a proactively positive move Minister Chidhakwa has indicated commitment to ‘tracing’ the unremitted revenues and restructuring diamond mining boards.
Over the past few days a number of analysts have come up in droves castigating ZimAsset as mere politicking, not based on reality. Zimbabwe’s economic growth has stagnated with a looming liquidity crisis and emotions are understandably running high. This year the economy was expected to stabilise around 5% on a background of improvements in mining and agriculture but that has not happened and growth has remained at 3.4%.Advertisement

When it comes to the general populace it is about ‘bread and butter issues’. The argument that is thrust forward against ZimAsset is ‘blue-prints do not put food on the table’ and, in its own right, this is a valid argument. However from a government standpoint as policy-makers, economic revival is a priority and novel strategies to kick-start the economy are needed. The furore of countless experts and analysts reproving the economic blue-print without putting forward constructive arguments makes ZimAsset the only attractive option.
The effects of the sanctions and limited access to credit lines must never be under-stated for that has had a detrimental effect to economic recovery. The government has tried re-engaging the IMF and World Bank but the country’s poor credit rating has negatively impacted the ability to access new lines of credit. According to the government, ZimAsset is meant to improve the investment climate and come up with sanction-busting strategies to enable full exploitation and value addition to the country’s abundant natural resources. When broken down to its bare components ZimAsset is a positive strategy that can only be judged following full implementation.
Contrary to the analysts and experts who have dismissed it entirely as gimmicks, the 129 page blue-print actually sets measurable and achievable sector outcomes and the sector outputs are point-specific for every key result area. It addresses key areas which, if effectively implemented, will kick-start the economy. The Quick Wins in the Value Addition and Benefician Cluster if implementation is point-perfect and we will see a resurgence of the ailing economy. The blue-print is pin-pointing the specific areas of the economy which will redress the issue of dearth of value addition which has always been the bane of our economic growth.
The Chisumbanje ethanol project, the ZimSteel project, establishing of diamond-cutting and processing, stabilising agro-processing projects and strengthening of small and medium enterprises are sure practical strategies to inject life into the economy. However a strategy without effective implementation will remain just a strategy and that is why some analysts are sceptical. But then if you read the document closely you will notice that the strategy for implementation is via a result-based management system with clear organisational visions and goals which are translated into a results framework of outcomes, outputs, strategies and resources.
A result-based management agenda has always proved effective in most organisational settings and incorporating it into a national economic blue-print is a bold move by the government. The strategy is equivalent of financing that makes payments contingent on the independent verification of results which has the potential of improving decision-making, transparency and accountability. The system aims to focus on actual results as opposed to just activities and outputs. There are clearly defined expected results, regular evaluation and taking timely corrective action.
Korea, Australia, Uganda and Malaysia have successfully implemented result-based management systems. The four clusters which are Food Security, Poverty Eradication, Infrastructure and Utilities, and Value Addition and Beneficiation which are identified within ZimAsset are critical to the Zimbabwean economic revival; that is all things being equal of course. These are complex and mammoth blue-prints which require effective implementation.
The system requires an effective senior and middle management structure to ensure vision and focus is cascade down organizational structure. If effectively implemented ZimAsset is Zimbabwe’s own home-tunneled way out of the economic down-turn. The danger is if not fully and effectively implemented it will just end up as a sleek blue-print disintegrate into an empty slogan.
Bernard Bwoni can be contacted at