The government continues to pick unsolicited fights with the economy without giving due regard to the immediate collateral harm these fights are causing to the general public.
Most, if not all, of the government’s recent economic policies, legislations and directives have fallen short in both formulation and implementation. Unsurprisingly, all attempts by the authorities to launch witch-hunts for so-called economic saboteurs have laid bare the government’s own inadequacies.
Government’s blind determination to tame an economy on a wild rampage has left the authorities susceptible to knee-jerk reactions. Policies, legislation and directives that must ordinarily underwrite public trust are undermining the little remaining public confidence, with patience wearing ever thin. Government is harming the economy by acting abruptly, arbitrarily and unilaterally. Just recently, government stopped all trade on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZES). A ban on EcoCash transactions was initially announced via a mere tweet. Markets and the public were caught off guard, and anxiety immediately ensued.
There is no denying that government reserves the right to keep the socio-economic and political environment calm, especially in times of imminent threat. But necessary interventions should not amount to unnecessary interference. Government’s role in the economy must be guided by the simple fact that Zimbabwe is a mixed economy and not a command economy. The government’s efforts should be limited to the role of facilitating enterprise and not plunging economic processes into chaos.
Prescribing to businesses what they must do, how they must do it and with whom they must do it is undue interference. Modifying economic principles to follow the wind and to suit a skewed narrative can only rock the boat. Government must establish the right measures, approaches and mobilise resources to have a critical mass needed to manage the economy and the public without fire fighting situations.
Through a well-established network of economic management systems and human capital primed to keep eyes and ears on the economy as watchdogs, the government must create and maintain smooth relations with the public. Watchdogs must constantly liaise with key players in the economy to obtain information and viewpoints the government can use to shape policies. The business community must also have faith in these watchdogs as a reliable conduit of communication with the government.
Government systems must operate on the same frequency and synergistically for the ultimate good of the nation. Parliamentarians must test the usefulness and relatability of policies to the short-term and long-term requirements of the economy. Public officials or the executive arm of government, must avoid actions and policies that harm the economy. The judiciary must safeguard economic laws from manipulation, repudiation and violation, especially by ministries.
Without the courtesies of public trust (public confidence and public support), government’s otherwise noble endeavours to prudently manage the economy might keep falling foul to an untrusting public. Public relations management is essential and must be afforded maximum resources to help create mutual and lasting trust between the government and the public.
Advisers to the highest office must be candid, if they are to be useful at all. What they see on the ground is what they must report. The truth they know is the truth they must communicate. Economic realities must not be sugar coated.
As a cardinal rule, government action must follow careful thinking. Thinking must include the views of the public obtainable through constant and periodic consultations. Thinking must consider anything and everything that can go wrong immediately or in the long run. Thinking must consider the merits of decisions or actions under review. Thinking must put Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans first. Thinking must reconcile and consolidate the interests of the public, the environment and the nation. Thinking must consider the appropriateness of actions. Thinking must consider the timing of actions. Thinking must consider public perception and reaction to government actions. Thinking must consider the conveniences and inconveniences of government actions to the public. Thinking must consider the possible legal, human rights and environmental law ramifications of governmental action. For the sake of clarity, let us outline what constitutes “the public”. The public includes the business community, international and local investors, other governments, the international community, international and local consumers, government itself, legislators, policymakers, international and local activists for anything and everything human, animals, the environment and the economy, non-governmental organisations, and churches. The list is not exhaustive.
Government can still achieve Vision 2030. However, Vision 2030 can only be attained through a methodical approach to economic management. This mission has to be anchored on the values of ethical conduct, morality and a government that understands the importance of changing course.
At this juncture, knowing what to do is important. Knowing how to do it is even more imperative. Discipline is key. A paradigm shift in the management of the economy is long overdue. The government must remain grounded and emotionally intelligent to avoid the needless chaos we are currently witnessing. An eye-for-an-eye approach to economic management will leave the nation visionless by 2030.
Katsidzira is an accountant.