No single route to economic growth

HARARE - In recent days, the indigenisation policy has dominated our thoughts and our sense of amusement.

Not so much for what the policy is about but for issues such as veiled criticism by President Robert Mugabe aimed at the Indigenisation minister, those Brainworks advisory services invoices which induce a sense of shock, the now ill-fated search warrants and attempts by Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to investigate some of the transactions completed by the National Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb).

There are many who argue that Zimbabwe needs such a policy, but there is an equal number who argue that the indigenisation policy is largely populist, hardly egalitarian and favours the politically-connected ahead of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Whilst it can address the inequalities of the past, indigenisation cannot spur economic growth. What the country needs are broad drivers of economic growth which support the private sector, the SMEs and re-integration into the world economy.

The assumption that in any economy anywhere in the world everyone and anyone can be an owner of a company is patently dishonest. It may be hugely popular, but it’s hardly a realistic proposition.

Like land redistribution, no-one can argue against indigenisation as a justifiable imperative.

The country’s economic transformation requires a restructuring and democratisation of ownership and control of the economy by empowering the historically oppressed to play a leading role in the mainstream economy.

However, inequality is not the only, neither is it the main reason why growth rates have been disappointing.

What the policy shouldn’t do is to replace a white capitalist with a black one.

At the very least, ordinary people like you and me for whose benefit the policy is intended have a legitimate right to question how the policy is being implemented and who has benefitted from what.

Those questions should be asked without fear of sledge-hammer response.

The major problem with leftist policy makers is a recurrent paranoia of a lurking imperialist on every corner and a militant belief that for a policy to be effective it has to be implemented with venomous confrontation and vitriolic abrasiveness.

Any criticism or opposition of policies such as the land reform programme or the indigenisation policy is equated with treachery despite obvious weaknesses or potential for improvement.

For every right thinking Zimbabwean, the real question should be how policies such as Indigenisation (Zanu PF), JUICE (mainstream MDC) and the other MDC’s ACTION will contribute to economic growth.

As we approach the next elections, these policies should be interrogated. Our priority should be government policies which provide an enabling environment for the flourishing of the talents of all our people to harness and develop their productive potential to ensure they play a leading role in the allocation of national resources.

National agenda should focus on creating a friendly business environment which encourages investment and growth rather than discourage it.

An effective economic policy should focus on addressing our problem with unemployed by supporting the private sector, entrepreneurship, small businesses and integration of the informal sector into the mainstream economy.

We must face up to our economic problems and have a clear plan to address them.

After years of endless conflict, Zimbabweans deserve an economy in which the state, private capital and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and spur economic growth through a democratic developmental state with the capacity to mobilise resources towards a common national agenda.

We must dispel the fallacy that we can only grow our economy through indigenisation, that there is only one route to achieve it or the infantile belief that those who propose different be lynched. - Lance Mabondiani

*Dr Lance Mambondiani is a development economist and a Zimbabwean banking expert. He lectures International Finance & Development at the University of Central Lancashire Business School.

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