By Vince Musewe
I have shared before with readers some key points made by Austrian Philipp von Hornigk on how to emulate rich countries.
More than 300 years ago the Austrian came up with nine very simple things to do in order to stimulate Austria’s economic development way back then in 1684. I want to stress the ninth point that he raised and how this is critical for our economic recovery.
He wrote: “Except for important considerations, no importation should be allowed under any circumstances of those commodities which there is sufficient supply of suitable quality at home. In these matters, neither sympathy nor compassion should be shown foreigners, kinsfolk, allies or enemies. All friendship ceases when it involves my won weakness and ruin. And this holds well even if domestic products are of poor quality or even higher priced. For it would be better to pay two dollars, which remain in the country, than only one which goes out. Failure to do this would be an abomination of prudent management.”
Ian Smith did this very well. I visited the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) museum in Bulawayo last year and was astounded at the now derelict NRZ yards where we used to build our own coaches. I am told that at its peak NRZ had about 23 000 employees!
NRZ also had a huge footprint in the region especially in training engineers, welders, draughtsmen and other numerous skilled technicians whom we have now sadly lost to other economies.
If it worked for Smith it should equally work for us.
We just have to have a deliberate policy of promoting local goods because it is good for the country.
Donald Trump’s idea of “Making America Great Again” is solely based on creating incomes in America for American families and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact Europe underdeveloped Africa and developed itself by deliberately prohibiting the local manufacture of numerous products.
This in turn allowed Europe to grow its formidable industrial sector while also creating high incomes and wealth at home.
We must do the same.
I am devastated to see how China has decimated our economy with cheap low quality products.
Each time we buy a Chinese made product we are transferring incomes and jobs to China and we dare call them our all-weather friends! If there is a crime against Zimbabweans that has been committed by this government, it is to allow the Chinese to do as they please in Zimbabwe.
The amount of suffering that has been brought to Zimbabwean families is unforgivable and the amount of businesses which continue to suffer the consequences of the raping of Zimbabwe’s resources and incomes by China cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.
As stated above, it is better to keep two dollars in the country than one dollar going out.
If we are to truly revive our economy we need a holistic “Buy Zimbabwe” approach that ensures that the products we produce are of good quality.
This must also include our banking sector, which should deliberately make capital available to businesses that produce locally and not to businesses which import goods that can be produced locally.
The Standard Association of Zimbabwe must also come to the table and ensure that there are checks and balances to ensure that local products meet world class standard, but we have to start somewhere.
The excuse that Zimbabwean products are not quality products is short-sighted. It is a self-defeating mentality because quality can only improve if we consume the products first.
Zimbabwe spends about US$600 million in importing second hand cars! Imagine if we rather set up an assembly plant of small cars that are now all over the roads and produced the spare parts locally too?
That would results in hundred of thousands of jobs being created and an increase in local disposable incomes. Willowvale Motor Industries was set up to do just that!
I think also critical is the psychology of buying local goods. We have to educate Zimbabweans in general that it is good for them to buy local goods.
This obsession with international brands does not help us. I remember growing up in the then Rhodesia and I don’t remember wearing any international clothing brands besides Levis and Wrangler jeans!
That is why our cotton and textiles industries did well and created many jobs and numerous indirect jobs.
Simply because we consumed local brands which were very good quality by the way.
So we can certainly do it again.
More important are our border controls. Too much corruption at entry points leads to all sorts of goods entering Zimbabwe.
Those promoting this practice must know that they are destroying incomes and our potential for local economic growth.
The Minister of Trade and Industry’s core responsibility must be to protect Zimbabwean jobs and businesses. The ultimate responsibility lies with him.
I also fully support efforts by the RBZ to stifle imports, while promoting exports; but everyone must come to the party.
Unnecessary and luxury imports should attract seriously high duties so that we discourage their consumption for “all friendship ceases when it involves my own weakness and ruin”.
Also important is that our government walks the talk. They must procure 100 percent local goods and our leaders must lead by example.
Foreign made cars, imported designer clothes, externalisation of foreign currency are terrible habits that all destroy our economy.
Zimbabwe can be great again, but we need to deliberately take the necessary actions and adopt the necessary psychology and behaviours because not doing so will lead to further economic decline and wide spread poverty. We are our own worst enemies!
Vince Musewe is an independent economist. You may contact him on [email protected]