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Vote for Infrastructure, Growth and Jobs

By Davison Muchadenyika 

July is normally associated with cold weather in the southern hemisphere. However, in 2013 the month is decision time for Zimbabwe. Millions of Zimbabweans go to the poll and decide who will be in the next government.

Davison Muchadenyika
Davison Muchadenyika

March, 2008 the people’s victory was denied but not in 2013. Temperatures have already heightened, manifestos have been launched, campaigns are in full swing, and the playing field is very uneven. What it is that the next government should prioritise and deliver to the electorate?

In 2012, I remarked that; “If I was a presidential hopeful, I would build a post transition development agenda for Zimbabwe on three pillars: infrastructure, growth and jobs. I would choose these three pillars since they are linked to each other and their cumulative impact to standards of living are tremendous”. Solving Zimbabwe’s development challenges rests on three things: Infrastructure, Growth and Jobs.

Infrastructure

The cumulative impact of infrastructure to the Gross Domestic Product (total output of a nation) is very significant. This statement is qualified by the World Bank statistics in the Southern African region.

Investments in infrastructure in countries like South Africa, Malawi, Angola, and Zambia contributed twice in per capita growth rate than in our country over the past decade. This gives us an important lesson: for growth, infrastructure matters.

The 2011 projections by the global development lender (World Bank) indicates that if we can match our infrastructure levels to that of Mauritius (leading in Africa) the cumulative impact on our annual growth rates will be 2,4%  than they are at present.

Infrastructure that needs attention includes ICT, irrigation, transport, power and water supply and sanitation. Capital expenditure in excess of billions annually should be committed by the government and private players in this sector.

This level of commitment is not easy but we have seen its trickle benefits in Mauritius, South Africa, China, and South Korea to mention just a few. Infrastructure transforms the fortunes of a country.

Business transactions in a country powered by modern infrastructure are fast and low in terms of costs. Efficient infrastructure systems reduce the transit time for goods and services. Transport costs are also reduced in the process.

In the end, the transaction cost of doing business is reduced. The net impact of this causality is a reduction in prices which has a positive impact on the welfare of citizens.

Human development services rely extensively on infrastructure. The provision of education, health, water and sanitation facilities, and economic opportunities is a function of the physical infrastructure in which the service can be accessed from.

Building more infrastructures especially in rural areas and densely populated urban areas and marginalised informal settlements in urban and peri urban areas will go a long way in making basic services available to the people. 

Growth

Economic success stories in most nations are anchored on defined economic drivers. Botswana used its diamond deposits to transform itself from low income to middle income country. Professor Atta Mills presided over the transformation of Ghana’s economy using oil reserves that had been discovered.

Natural gas is doing wonders in Russia, Qatar and Iran. Nearer home, Mozambique discovered its first major export in 20 years; two years ago. The export is coal, and the country has also found natural gas which is yet to be confirmed.

Mozambique was ravaged by a civil war for a decade and half but they rediscovered themselves. To show the country’s commitment towards growth, the government of Mozambique is planning to spend US$50 billion in the next decade to fully tape its resources and create jobs.

In most discussions, Zimbabweans always boast of having several minerals and abundant productive land. These two resources have not been harnessed to stimulate long and sustained growth levels. When diamonds were discovered, we thought that was an answer to our ailing economy.

To date, it has proved negative. The diamonds are being used for personal enrichment by a few political cronies at the expense of the majority of Zimbabweans. Our diamonds should not be a curse but a blessing in our beloved nation.

For this to be a blessing we need a clean government, a government that works for the people, a government that values the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability. That government can only be put in power by Zimbabweans. We have a role to play in the next election.

Growth comes with high level of labour demand. The unemployment we are grappled with may soon be history if we follow the right policies and development models. China and India have managed to follow growth models that are labour intensive to tap in their huge populations.

Poverty in these two countries has fallen significantly, largely due to the inclusive, pro-poor and sustainable growth models. The consequential impact of growth on poverty cannot be underestimated. The impact is overwhelming.

For Zimbabwe, where poverty has been on the rise for more than a decade, a pro-poor and inclusive growth model is therefore ideal.

Today’s international system respects much emerging and bigger economies. Brazil, Russia, China and India are now in the top ten shareholding list of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). South Africa is now part of the G20, a body that is making decisions for the international economic system.

What is interesting is that these nations knew what to do first for them to influence the world: Economic growth, economic growth, and economic growth. After long and sustained growth levels, you claim for international power and you will get it.

We have been doing the reverse.

Jobs

Our unemployment level is among the highest in the world. Our society has paid the price of this unemployment. Politicians have found a ‘cheap weapon’ to use – the unemployed young people. The result has been torture, victimisation and murders in our society.

Our society has been torn apart and highly intolerant as of now. Following a development agenda premised on job creation, will take the youths out of abuse into the industry, offices and business. This approach would have solved two things: unemployment and social cohesion.

More jobs will complement increased growth levels. The demand for goods and services will increase as more people have disposable income. The surge in demand will complement the increase in supply produced by the growing economy.

This strategy will help both the supply and demand side of the economy. Through remittances the working population can also boost even rural economies. Rural economies at the moment are very illiquid, and remittances can transform the liquidity of rural areas for the better.

More labour force employed means more tax for government. Government coffers will be boosted as the working population would increase tremendously. A state with more revenue, holding other factors constant can transform itself to effectively and efficiently carry out its functions.

Our government has been cash strapped for so many years rendering it ‘useless and ineffective’. Critical public service positions remain vacant due to funds unavailability. The public service forms the core of government operations.

In this regard, increasing government revenues will go a long way in strengthening the state.

Infrastructure, growth and jobs are intertwined hence forming a coherent and logical development strategy. Other countries have followed this path successfully. Zimbabwe remains at the edge of progress and regression.

An agreement on a shared development agenda will transform the nation’s fortunes. July 31st provides us with a great chance of voting for infrastructure, growth and jobs. Two political parties, two manifestos, the emphasis of an agenda for Zimbabwe are different.

One party is focusing on the past and the other the future. Let’s vote for the future and deliver a New Zimbabwe.

The writer is a development planner and can be contacted at [email protected].

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