By Victoria Ruzvidzo
Very few strategies, if any, beat the formidable force of a facilitative Government and a sincere and honest private sector in confronting economic challenges of any country no matter how complicated they may seem.
The two are the most critical components of the economic engine, not that other stakeholders belong to the periphery, but that once Government and its private sector are in sync, the rest of the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.
It is in this regard that we applaud President Mnangagwa and his team for calling the private sector to a round-table to douse the economic flames that have, in more than one instance, threatened to raze the economy down.
Governments, by their nature, always view the private sector with suspicion, especially when facing immense challenges such as those confronting the economy today. But the private sector also feels the Government is out to strangle it half the time. Yet, in essence, this is not the case. One needs the other for their very survival.
The Monday morning meeting between the President and cptains of industry was quite phenomenal and impactful on the economy. The results will begin to show soon.
This economy, which has proven time nd time again that it goes beyond the proverbial nine lives, needs the Government, private sector and the rest of the stakeholders to be singing the same tune. Not only is that good for home-grown solutions but it also gives external stakeholders confidence that there is congruency in dealing with hot issues.
Unity and togetherness is an ingredient that has a way of producing results and untangling a complex web when least expected. People put their heads together to find solutions, something stakeholders would not be able to do individually. A solid force is generally difficult to surmount hence challenges have a tendency of bowing down to a more concerted effort.
The Tripartite NegotiatingForum and the National Economic Consultative Forum were established decades ago as platforms to ensure a meeting of the minds between Government, business and labour but these have not been as active over the last few years. I remember vividly a few years ago when the NECF would hold monthly meetings but these could have been overtaken by more pressing issues. Maybe once a month was also a bit too much. Quarterly can do the trick or even more regularly depending on circumstances.
Government and private sector largely play cat and mouse games but we were excited to note that Monday’s meeting was quite frank and progressive.
We are told that the President did not mince his words on areas he was not too chuffed about. Many in the private sector have been accused of fuelling problems by raising prices or causing artificial shortages which has been the order of the day in the economy.
We hear Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya was also in his elements and cleared the air over foreign currency allocations and other questions industry had.
The fact that industrialists also ended up blaming each other for acting dishonestly in some instances made the meeting all the more important and, therefore, progressive. Murmurs and undertones do not solve issues but confronting bad behaviour produces the desired results.
Industry, on its part, is said to have been frank in its submissions about policy inconsistency and ineffective communication of issues in some instances. We would like to believe that these are issues that were then resolved or will be thoroughly looked into, going forward.
The private sector has a critical role to play in ensuring that Zimbabwe produces enough for the domestic and export markets, creates jobs and wealth so that the middle income economy becomes a reality while in the interim ensuring the standard of living improves significantly.
Government also needs to roll out policies and strategies that create the right environment for business to thrive.
Such a scenario and spirit of comradeship then takes care of such issues as smuggling, profiteering, tax invasion, policy inconsistency and many other ills that compromise our efforts to grow the economy.
Even cases of sabotage will have no place where Government and the private sector are walking together. We believe evidence of the renewed cordial relationship will reflect in the impeding 2019 National Budget and Monetary Policy Statements expected over the next few weeks.
A few years ago one senior business executive confessed that most of his peers had a lot to do with Zimbabwe’s poor showing on the ease of doing business index and other indices that assess a country’s economic wellbeing. He said they were in the habit of badmouthing the country each time their opinion was requested. And in most instances the executives exaggerated the situation on the ground.
The bad part was that such recklessness would always come back to haunt the economy in a big way. We believe that is all in the past now.
We want to see Government and business holding hands all the time. It is largely the responsibility of national and local government to provide services but the participation of the private sector in infrastructure development, for instance, yields quicker and more effective results.
The current economic challenges have shrunk the revenue base hence Government is constrained in playing its facilitative role effectively. But the private sector is well able to augment the efforts and create a better Zimbabwe.
Through such public-private sector partnerships, build operate and transfer schemes and any other such, the state of our roads and other infrastructure can be transformed more effectively.
Zimbabwe does not need corrupt practices, profiteering, pricing madness, smuggling and such untoward behaviour but rather the country needs a solid private sector that can deliver jobs, wealth and restore the economy. A private sector that does not take advantage of the situation to profiteer and one that does not wade into dangerous waters that bring more harm than good to the country.
Conversely, this country needs the Government to be sober, sincere and sensitive to industry needs. President Mnangagwa has promised to do that and Monday’s meeting demonstrated that he means business.
Tagging along business leaders to key regional and international meetings or State visits will also yield results and help the country negotiate deals to help transform the economy. This is already happening and we believe a higher scale will surely produce the Zimbabwe we want.
Where there is dissent, amicable solutions can always be found and a common path charted as opposed to “fixing” each other. Teamwork will make seeming insurmountable challenges quite easy to overcome.
Unity of purpose allows the formulation and implementation of home-grown solutions on which this economy can be rebuilt.
In God I trust!