Zimbabwe? What Next For The Second Poorest Country?

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Recently, Zimbabwe has been rated as the second poorest country in the world based on the Global Finance Magazine with a Gross Domestic Product of $589.46 in 2013. Inasmuch as data can be accurate to the extent of the methodology that has been applied in the collection stage, this data emanates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a multilateral organization that commands global respect. Their data are collected at country level. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the worst ranking score of $394.25 for the same period.

Two things are strikingly common and saddening between these two countries. These two countries are all richly endowed with mineral endowments .So what could be the underlying causes of this phenomenon? Is it a curse or a blessing to have these minerals? Is it a question of poor governance from leadership? No doubt there is a matrix of causes of this sad and unfortunate state of affairs.

 

While the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measure to countries’ economic performance, it has its own flaws; that it does not show the wellbeing of citizens per se, rather, it is a quantitative number’s game that does not show how the created wealth is distributed across the population. Nonetheless, the methodology does offer a valuable and good tangent for examining the underlying issues. The GDP measure sums up the total value of goods and services produced in an economy. A better measure to remedy this approach is to compare with the Social Progress Index (SPI). The SPI is more inclusive and broader as it sums up the economy’s performance on the basis of three pillars which are basic human needs, foundation of wellbeing and, opportunities for development. According to this yardstick, Norway tops the list in the world with an SPI score of 88.36.

 

Reading the news about my beloved country, Zimbabwe’s dismal economic ranking from North America compelled me to express my views, and at least to share my opinions with the broader audience as what could be done to get out of this sad scenario. I believe the country has all it takes to reclaim the development campus that saw it being rated as the Jewel of Africa, a few decades ago! Zimbabwe is vastly endowed with mineral resources, excellent agricultural climate, educated population among many merits it has but this has not been enough to have it stand out at least in the global economic rankings.

 

Firstly, the Zimbabwean leadership from all corners must accept the reality that the country’s economy is not performing well as shown by the recent economic measures, the worsening vendor population on the streets and, the increased power cuts. Leadership dimension is broad in this sense in that it encompasses business leadership, community leadership and, political leadership.

 

The next step is to really examine what is causing this, I opine that there is need for investment in the country in all sectors such as energy, infrastructure and mining. There is need to clearly invest in research for quantifying the real value of the country’s minerals. It’s not surprising that most developed countries know much more about the country’s underground wealth than the Zimbabwean government itself. The government should also take it seriously when it negotiates bilateral and multilateral investment deals with other countries, there must be technocrats chosen on meritocracy as opposed to political inclination who should be part of the negotiating teams. This is important to enable the government and respective state institutions like Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to identify the loopholes in revenue and tax. This is much needed more than ever.

 

The government should be honest and more serious about stamping out corruption. The poor governance that has been witnessed in many government bodies like the National Railways of Zimbabwe should be curbed. The recent report by the Comptroller General should be taken seriously. The majority of Zimbabwean citizens have endured enough economic hardships whilst a few elite are ripping off the taxpayer’s money. This should stop now.

 

In summary, there is need for all stakeholders across the country to be honest to each other and admit that the current economic trajectory is not creating the needed employment and desirable economic results or at least needs recalibration. Unemployment is rising every day against an increasing base of more youth graduating and companies are struggling more and more each day. The bug stops on the political leadership as well, to craft and implement the policies that create and enable investment. The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) is a good basis for debate and honest introspection. It is not enough though to have paper blue prints without sincere execution, the political leadership should show more political will by implementing all facets of the policy matrix holistically. Zimbabwe should open up to the rest of the world faster than it is doing, not just look East when we all know that the route to the East ultimately leads to the West. The country should create a conducive business environment as capital flows to the safest destinations which unfortunately, Zimbabwe has not be able to portray to the world as one.

Isaac Jonas is a Masters of Food and Resources Economics student at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a Lead Consultant for SEED Evaluation Consultants. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be conducted on isacjonasi@gmail.com. His website is http://isaac-jonas.com/

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