Vi­sion 2030: Build­ing an en­dur­ing part­ner­ship

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

LAST Mon­day, I had oc­ca­sion to host our busi­ness and con­sumer lead­ers to a work­ing break­fast meet­ing.

Many will re­call that soon af­ter elec­tions, I urged us all to re­fo­cus on na­tional at­ten­tion to­wards re­cov­er­ing and grow­ing our econ­omy.

The in­au­gu­ral Mon­day meet­ing and more such to come, must be seen in that light.

Even at the height of the po­lit­i­cal sea­son, we still re­main pro­duc­ers and con­sumers of goods and ser­vices trad­ing in our mar­kets.

I sup­pose this is what econ­o­mists mean when they say “man is an eco­nomic an­i­mal”.

Pol­i­tics can­not be the be-all and end-all of our lives. Nei­ther is it an all-time pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. The goal in all such meet­ings is to forge mu­tu­ally gain­ful part­ner­ships be­tween Gov­ern­ment and Busi­ness to build a strong econ­omy for our Sec­ond Repub­lic.

We must cre­ate more jobs for our youths. Zim­babwe can­not be open for busi­ness when it is closed for eco­nomic di­a­logue.

“Them/ Us” di­vi­sive di­chotomy has not served any econ­omy. There is fierce global com­pe­ti­tion which daily con­tin­ues to bear down on small, de­vel­op­ing economies like ours. We dwin­dle and be­come even smaller when we frag­ment our­selves fur­ther.

Build­ing an en­dur­ing part­ner­ship be­tween Gov­ern­ment and Busi­ness re­quires mu­tual ac­cep­tance.

Busi­ness lead­ers must know and ap­pre­ci­ate the po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties and pres­sures which face Gov­ern­ment, thus in­form­ing and lim­it­ing its choices and de­ci­sions.

Like­wise, Gov­ern­ment must know and un­der­stand pres­sures, sen­si­tiv­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mar­ket which shape and con­strain busi­ness choices and op­tions.

Above all, Gov­ern­ment must ap­pre­ci­ate that in busi­ness, time and quick turn­around time for de­ci­sions are of essence. Once there is such con­ver­gence, con­sen­sus on shared na­tional goals be­comes eas­ier to build and achieve.

And there is much to ar­gue for such mu­tu­al­ity. The con­sumer who buys goods and ser­vices off busi­ness shelves is the same per­son who casts a vote for a politi­cian.

In our re­spec­tive spheres, we suc­ceed when the con­sumer flour­ishes; we fail when he suf­fers. So, for me the fore­most point to cel­e­brate from last week is that we met and broke the fast to­gether, in amity.

Be­sides, there were lighter yet in­struc­tive mo­ments. State House could not raise bread at all for the hand­ful of busi­ness­men and women who sat for break­fast!

Much to my dis­ap­point­ment, my busi­ness guests did not ask why. As a re­sult I had to park away my short, sharp an­swer which I had com­posed in readi­ness for them! State House does not bake bread; in­dus­try does.

But the op­por­tu­nity was not lost en­tirely. The dis­cus­sions which fol­lowed were re­mark­ably frank and hon­est. One con­trib­u­tor re­minded us that “bread is wheat”, adding Zim­babwe has the soils, the water, the cold, the seed and the ex­per­tise to grow the wheat she needs.

Yet over the years, she has only man­aged enough wheat to last for about three or less months in a year, with the re­quire­ments for the rest of the year hav­ing to be met through ex­pen­sive im­ports from as far afield as Canada, Rus­sia and Brazil.

As much as US$16m is spent monthly on wheat im­ports.

The meet­ing heard that in­stead of sup­port­ing farm­ers to grow wheat, our millers and bak­ers make a bee­line to the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe which does not grow wheat. They queue at the RBZ for for­eign cur­rency they need to im­port wheat!

The same story goes for soya beans which grow very well here, and whose present na­tional out­put is ad­e­quate for just one month!

For the re­main­ing eleven months we im­port the prod­uct at US$20 mil­lion a month.

Quite need­lessly, we have be­come an im­port­de­pen­dent econ­omy in ar­eas where we have the means, but lack the will to pro­duce.

Wheat and soya should come from our land and not from im­ports.

This re­quires Busi­ness part­ner­ing Gov­ern­ment and the farmer un­der con­tract farm­ing ar­range­ments. Redi­rect­ing a small por­tion of yearly div­i­dend to­wards mech­a­nis­ing our agri­cul­ture and to­wards in­put sup­port will def­i­nitely cre­ate enough feed­stock for our fac­to­ries.

This is called en­light­ened self-in­ter­est.

Com­pa­nies in the bev­er­ages, cot­ton, to­bacco and milk busi­nesses have shown the way in this re­gard by em­pha­sis­ing both cor­po­rate and con­tract farm­ing.

There is no wheel to in­vent here, only will to sum­mon!

I am glad that this point was con­ceded at the break­fast meet­ing, which means we should be­gin to see more in­ter­ven­tions meant to sup­port our im­port sub­sti­tu­tion pro­grammes in agri­cul­ture to sup­port our agro-in­dus­trial strat­egy.

Still on agri­cul­ture, I am alive to ar­gu­ments for cur­tail­ing Gov­ern­ment sup­port to farm­ers, which are of­ten made on grounds of re­duc­ing pub­lic debt.

Ex­cept both our na­tional food se­cu­rity re­quire­ments and our agro-led in­dus­trial strat­egy make these ar­gu­ments less per­sua­sive.

So, too, do ex­pe­ri­ences else­where in the world. Well-de­vel­oped economies in Euro­pean Union coun­tries whose agri­cul­ture is highly mech­a­nised still sub­sidise agri­cul­ture.

This year alone, the Euro­pean Union, through its Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP), is pro­jected to sup­port Euro­pean farm­ers and Euro­pean ru­ral de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes to the tune of €58,82 bil­lion.

CAP aims to im­prove agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity in or­der to en­sure a sta­ble sup­ply of af­ford­able food to the Euro­pean con­sumer.

CAP seeks to guar­an­tee vi­a­bil­ity and liveli­hoods for farm­ers whose in­dus­try is sus­cep­ti­ble to the va­garies of cli­mate change.

CAP also seeks to en­hance and se­cure job-cre­ation in farm­ing, and in agri-food in­dus­tries and as­so­ci­ated sec­tors. Above all, CAP en­sures trans­for­ma­tive in­vest­ments in ru­ral de­vel­op­ment within the EU.

All these are goals we can re­late to here in Zim­babwe. This means we have a lot to learn from this Euro­pean pol­icy which has been in ex­is­tence since its launch in 1962!

The is­sue then is not to stop subsidising agri­cul­ture. Rather, the is­sue is to do so ef­fi­ciently, and in or­der to en­sure higher pro­duc­tiv­ity in that crit­i­cal sec­tor.

Both would then guar­an­tee a sta­ble sup­ply of af­ford­able food to the con­sumer.

Above all, our Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, it­self the mod­est equiv­a­lent of CAP in the EU, must link di­rectly with our broader in­dus­trial pol­icy strat­egy.

It must sup­ply the much-needed feed­stock which is in deficit.

It must, too, stim­u­late ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and in­comes, in line with our con­sti­tu­tion­ally dic­tated pol­icy of de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion and de­vo­lu­tion.

On their part, farm­ers must de­velop the dis­ci­pline to work the land op­ti­mally, and to hon­our fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions aris­ing from fund­ing ar­range­ments availed to them.

Ac­cess­ing in­puts for the sea­son must be con­di­tional upon demon­stra­ble com­mit­ment to ser­vice pre­vi­ous loans.

That way, we guard against bloat­ing the pub­lic debt while en­sur­ing that crit­i­cal tran­si­tion of turn­ing farm­ing into busi­ness.

At the in­stance of banks, Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced far-reach­ing changes and fea­tures to the 99-Year Land Leases in or­der to make them bank­able and trade­able le­gal in­stru­ments.

There has to be clo­sure to this mat­ter which has been mov­ing back and forth for far too long. On Tues­day I had a good meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of sup­pli­ers of agri­cul­tural in­puts.

Prices for in­puts had risen dra­mat­i­cally ahead of the sea­son which is al­most upon us, mak­ing it sim­ply sense­less to go back to the field. I am happy the prices have now come down, thus mak­ing farm­ing prof­itable once more.

A deal has also been con­cluded to aug­ment fer­tilis­ers for the sea­son. This, cou­pled with the now sta­ble fuel sup­plies in the coun­try, should en­sure the whole econ­omy moves for­ward, led by agri­cul­ture.

I fully agree with our in­dus­tri­al­ists that short­term mea­sures to meet the sup­ply gap on ba­sic com­modi­ties in the mar­ket should not un­der­mine our long-term coun­try in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion strat­egy.

For that rea­son, the re­cent sus­pen­sion of Statu­tory In­stru­ment 122 (SI 64 pre­vi­ously) is tem­po­rary, and only meant to meet the surge in con­sumer de­mand dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, as well as to plug the raw ma­te­ri­als sup­ply gap for in­dus­try be­tween now and the next har­vest.

More and bet­ter jobs come from grow­ing our man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity than from trad­ing in im­ported goods.

But our man­u­fac­tur­ers must earn the Na­tion’s trust by oper­at­ing and trad­ing eth­i­cally. Sadly, this has not been so in the last three or so weeks.

Gov­ern­ment took to heart the cry that the two per­cent trans­ac­tional tax has com­pounded the tax bur­den for both busi­ness and for the con­sumer.

Once the le­gal in­stru­ment we are craft­ing against un­ex­plained wealth and de­posits is in place, new mea­sures will be an­nounced to review the tax which, among other con­sid­er­a­tions, had been oc­ca­sioned by il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor.

Gov­ern­ment also took note of Busi­ness ex­pec­ta­tions on fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion.

A time-lined raft of mea­sures on that front will be an­nounced soon, in­clud­ing an ex­er­cise in de­vel­op­ing a bio­met­ric reg­is­ter of all civil ser­vants on Gov­ern­ment pay­roll which should elim­i­nate leak­ages through ghost work­ers.

A key con­sid­er­a­tion of both mon­e­tary and fis­cal pol­icy must be to se­cure the val­ues of wealth, earn­ings, wages and sav­ings in the econ­omy.

We should never make or al­low de­ci­sions that erode value, as hap­pened in 2008.

On this one mat­ter we stand firm and un­moved. No pol­icy will be en­ter­tained whose net ef­fect is to un­der­mine value in the econ­omy. Along­side this is the need to im­prove pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion on de­ci­sions and poli­cies af­fect­ing Busi­ness.

Those of us in Gov­ern­ment have not al­ways fared well in this re­gard. Cor­rectly, Busi­ness crit­i­cised us for un­der­min­ing con­fi­dence and cer­tainty in the mar­ket and be­yond. Cheap and reck­less talk has fur­ther raised the al­ready high coun­try risk.

To nar­row the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap, I have em­braced the idea of a Busi­ness Council to ad­vise me and Gov­ern­ment.

At the Mon­day meet­ing, I re­quested that Busi­ness for­ward names so that such an ad­vi­sory body is ur­gently con­sti­tuted.

Be­cause we op­er­ate in the global mar­ket, I have also de­cided to cre­ate an­other ad­vi­sory body com­pris­ing in­ter­na­tional experts who will keep me keyed on in­ter­na­tional busi­ness and in­vest­ment is­sues.

The catch­ment for such a team will be global, both ge­o­graph­i­cally and by way of the range of ex­pe­ri­ence. Zim­babwe must im­prove her in­ter­na­tional ap­peal for FDI.

Over­all, what pleased me most about the Mon­day break­fast meet­ing was how minds and ar­gu­ments criss-crossed be­yond sec­toral bound­aries.

It showed hon­esty, frank­ness and bal­ance. There was no po­si­tional think­ing. We had, af­ter all, met to brain­storm. We had not met to ven­ti­late in­sti­tu­tional po­si­tions, to cast as­per­sions or to dig in.

Short­com­ings were ad­mit­ted to; crit­i­cisms and sug­ges­tions were em­braced in a pos­i­tive spirit. That is the way it should be as we move for­ward in uni­son.

Zim­babwe is open for busi­ness and for di­a­logue.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.