Pain is unavoidable in the short-term

HARARE – It is an understatement to say that Zimbabwe’s economy is limping following years of disastrous policies and lack of strategic leadership, but just as well, Zimbabweans united recently to manage former president Robert Mugabe out of power after 37 years of economic ruin.

Very soon, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be announcing his first Cabinet, which has difficult choices to make given that elections are around the corner. While the temptation to continue with Mugabe’s ruinous populist policies could be riveting, the country’s economy is now virtually grounded and can hardly afford costly vote-buying gimmicks.

To jump-start collapsed industries, there is really no need for the new administration to attempt dangerous experiments that might dash exuberant hopes that followed Mugabe’s disgraceful exit.

Zimbabwe desperately needs to chart a new economic course to revive collapsed industries which used to produce for the export market before they were vandalised by Mugabe’s administration.

Clearly, a government that spends more than 90 percent of its revenue on recurrent expenditure needs to have the heads of its bureaucrats re-examined. One of the first things the new government must therefore do is to do a comprehensive audit of its civil service to weed out ghost workers and trim excess fat.

Jobs losses will be unavoidable in some departments or ministries but such losses would be temporary as long as the over-arching objective is to grow the economic cake.

Zimbabwe already has a strong base to build on, underpinned by its mineral resources. The three sectors that could enable the country to ride out of the current difficulties within the shortest space of time are mining, agriculture and tourism but to unlock value from these sectors, on top of the new administration’s priorities should be the need to negotiate credit, since an injection of foreign currency will help stabilise the economy in the short-term.

In the event that we get balance of payments support, the turnaround would be quicker.

The revival efforts should be anchored on a viable economic path whereby the authorities could consider choosing between adopting one of the two dominant economic models in the world or better still adopt a hybrid model that borrows from the so-called free world (the Western model) and the East, led by Russia.

For world economies, the concept of an economic model has some resemblance to the work of architects whose drawings are conceived in the mind and manifest themselves through immaculately built buildings.

The new government represents the architects in construction or entrepreneurs if it were business.

If what they are conceiving in their minds is a plan for unity, hard work, development and prosperity as enunciated by Mnangagwa in his inaugural address last week, before long we will have the new Zimbabwe that we long for.