Joseph Stalin, the leader of Russia (1928-1953), created a series of plans based on his policies with his first economic plan dubbed First Five Year Plan. This ambitious plan was centred around rapid industrialisation and the collectivization of agriculture designed to improve the economy of the Soviet Union at the expense of consumer goods.
Before launching the first five-year plan, the Soviet Union had been facing threats from external sources as well as experiencing an economic and industrial downturn. Stalin wanted to grow the GDP of the economy anchored on agriculture and industrial production, which had been in tatters for years.
Implemented in 1928, the targets were wildly optimistic given the short period of five years to meet the desired targets. However, due to consistency, transparency and reforms, production shy off the time frame as economic growth firmed 14% with agriculture and mining scoring notable achievements. What an economic transformation over a short period.
Similarly, the government of Zimbabwe set out a five-year plan to revive the nation’s economy which has been heading southwards since around 2000 when the local currency began to lose shape. In 2020, in a similar way to Stalin’s five-year plan, government drew up a detailed plan dubbed National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) which seeks to rebuild the economy in five years.
NDS 1 kicked off amid a decline in agricultural output, mining and an embattled local currency which the government promised to deliver in five years. The success of the plan was tied to agriculture, mining and industry, with austerity measures put in 2018 by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube remaining to anchor the economic growth though at the expense of the masses. This makes Stalin’s five years plan a mirror to the NDS1.
With a space of three more years remaining to achieve its goals, government revealed it had successfully implemented 231 projects meant to anchor NDS 1 with 147 of them reaching the planned stage, thus translating to 64% success rate by 2021 alone. This is a big success, a real milestone if considered real in practice.
In a Twitter post, which was later published by the government media, Permanent Secretary for Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana revealed government had scored some goals in upholding the country’s NDS 1 targets, which he termed National Priority Projects, with agriculture and social infrastructure projects leading the race.
However, it is unconvincing to clap for the government before a deep research as it once scored own goals in its prior economic blueprints. Therefore, there is a need to dig down whether the ‘trophy’ is anchored on real-time growth or is politically motivated as election time is knocking.
Previously, Zimbabwe launched a series of economic blueprints namely ZIMPREST, NERP, MERP, STERP ZIM ASSET and TSP. These failed and economic growth was unfounded. The economic environment was largely volatile dominated by high inflation, high unemployment rate, poor living standards and a staggering currency. Despite the shortfalls, government continued to spread propaganda on false positives, especially during the reign of former President, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s propaganda also spilt into the Second Republic given some of the unfounded achievements that are attributed to the TSP (2018-2020).
Recap of NDS 1 goals
The economic blueprint has set a target to strengthen economic stability, achieve and sustain inclusive and equitable GDP growth, promote new enterprise development employment and job creation. Other objectives are to unlock international engagement, modernise economy through the use of ICTs and digital economy and promote social infrastructure and social safety nets. Ensuring sustainable environmental protection and resiliency good governance and good corporate investments are part of the objectives.
With that, the state has set to achieve and sustained over 5% GDP, achieve and maintain single-digit inflation, create more than 760 000 jobs, competitive foreign exchange rate regime, accelerate value addition, improve infrastructure development and investment in energy, water, sanitation roads, health, education and social amenities.
Analysis of goals
Strengthen macro-economic stability
The prominence of the NDS 1 lies in shaping up the economic prowess of the nation to higher levels, which is tied on national prioritised projects. By strengthening the macro-economic stability, the government is aiming to curb inflation to a single digit, ensure exchange rate stability, revitalise the strength of the local unit, increase international reserves and create employment.
This is anchored on various projects within housing provision, rehabilitation of roads, mining, agriculture and tourism industries.
Inflation, currency and exchange rates
Before the introduction of NDS 1, inflation hovered above 100%. This was reduced to circa 60% by year-end of 2021 though it was below the target of maintaining a 1-digit inflation figure.
Conversely, currency stability never found its course. The local unit continued to depreciate against major currencies since 2020, from circa ZWL25:US$1 in June 2020 to ZWL112:US$1 in January 2022. Due to that, the exchange rate, both at the official exchange rate and parallel market plummeted to all-time highs.
On a one-year basis from June 2020 to June 2021, the Zimbabwe dollar dropped 35% while to date by 113%.
Exchange rate dynamics 2020-2022 on auction market
Therefore, as for currency stability and exchange rates, the score for NDS 1 remains null. However, inflation fell since the economic blueprint became operation from a higher of over 500% in June 2020 to circa 61% in December 2021.
As for employment rate, data from Non-Governmental Organisations reflect over 90% being unemployed although data from government says less than 10% are unemployed. Reality is seen in the streets where vendors are increasing more in numbers than litter itself. Illegal mining has become the norm in rural areas with everyone rushing to the growing of perishable cash crops like in Domboshava. Without ZIMSTAT data, one can easily tell from the catch of an eye that unemployment bears a large footprint in the Zimbabwe economy.
As for sustaining goal number two, which is to sustain an equitable GDP, this is to be measured if the nation maintains an average of over 5% GDP by 2022. The nation also remains with consistent fiscal deficits from 2020 to 2021, succumbed to huge foreign debts especially from the Republic of China and quasi-fiscal operations remains the order of the day.
Modernise Economy through ICT and digital technologies
Zimbabwe is targeting to improve the usage of ICTs and modern technology by 2025. It is not denied that from 2020 to date, the usage of internet to conduct business operations increased due to the COVID-19 strains. Physical education was replaced with e-learning, e-commerce and zoom used to purchase goods and conduct business meetings. Banks banked more on plastic money than physical money in the name of RTGS dollars. Electronic transfers continue to dominate Zimbabwean currency system to date.
However, one should note that e-business and learning, zoom meetings and RTGS transfers have their flaws, that even outperform benefits. Firstly, Zimbabwe has a poor network infrastructure, registering the most expensive data in SADC region.
Besides, network remains a challenging effect especially in rural areas where a large chunk of people lives making e-learning and e-business almost impossible.
ICT and modern technologies make use of laptops, smartphones and other electronic gadgets. With the 2022 national budget putting a cell phone levy, the goal is hard to attain. Therefore, there is a greater probability of the impossible than the possible.
Strengthen Social Infrastructure and social safety nets
Social infrastructure includes physical facilities and spaces where the community can access social services. These include health-related services, education and training, social housing programs, police, courts and other justice and public safety provisions, as well as arts, culture and recreational facilities. Social safety nets are programs that protect families from the impact of economic shocks, natural calamities and other related crises.
The health sector, education and justice remain ailing as far as meeting demands are concerned. The health sector remains short of drugs, clean water, dilapidated health structures and insufficient staff due to strikes and exodus of health personnel abroad, especially United Kingdom and South Africa in search of greener pastures.
In 2021 alone, more than 2000 health care professionals left the service, more than the number that left in 2020 of 993 according to the Health Ministry.
In the provision of clean water, ZINWA’s tap water remains untrusted as it is not safe to drink. Residents in urban areas are seen in large queues at boreholes sourcing for safe water. To add salt to the wound, the dirty piped water is very scarce. Water problems have become the norm in Harare suburbs, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo. In rural areas, most people rely on unprotected water from open pits and open deep wells. No fruitful programmes have been initiated by the government to improve this.
The health crisis is severe in rural areas where citizens have to travel more than 20 kilometres in search of medical aid. At hospitals, the drugs are not there with the services being very poor. Much is still needed to be done to alleviate the health sector in Zimbabwe to achieve NDS 1goals.
As far as delivery of housing is concerned, the goal is far from being achieved. Most if not all of the housing schemes and housing cooperations are urban-based. Shantytowns in Hopely and areas around Epworth in Zimbabwe and un-proper shelters to date for the victims of Cyclone Idai are clear indications of housing crisis in Zimbabwe. Some of the housing cooperatives in Harare have been reported to be bogus, which has seen a lot of people losing their hard-earned money.
The same goes for social safety nets. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare is responsible for labour relations and welfare in Zimbabwe. Social safety nets continue to deteriorate, there is a lack of transparency and accountability in choosing beneficiaries and distribution of benefits. Social Security and Service delivery remain poor and medical aid and insurance are beyond the reach of many. Many people had lost their medical aid and insurance after failing to pay their premiums during the lockdown. COVID-19 packages given to the civil servants, averaging US$75 per month was not even enough given the high rising costs of living in Zimbabwe on daily basis. All these issues lead to an increase in vulnerable people who need more social safety nets.
Engagement with international community
This is one of the worst-performing targets since NDS 1 started rolling. The relationship between the Western countries and Zimbabwe remains soar due to issues relating to corruption, abuse of human rights, huge debts and lack of transparency. Relationships have worsened further from where they were during the era of Robert Mugabe.
Climate and Environmental Management
Zimbabwe is far from committing its climate change targets as the nation looks up to revive its energy irregularities through ramping of coal production. The state is also expecting to reach a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, making it hard to commit to reducing emissions.
On the other hand, the nation’s environment is very dilapidating. Litter is found everywhere around Harare locations and in the CBD. Harare’s Mbare, Glen View, Budiriro, Glenora, Kuwadzana suburbs to mention a few are widely known for sewage outbreaks that are unsafe for the well-being of citizens.
Government continues to blame the opposition party run city councils for not delivering services while the local councils blame government for not fully equipping it with resources to perform its duties.
Corruption and lack of transparency remain core in all governmental bodies, which is a minus in achieving good governance and corporate social investment.
Agriculture and Energy Sector
Notable goals have been seen within the agriculture sector. This has seen improvement within the food and nutrition sector. Government programmes such as the transformation of Agribank into a land bank, strengthening the use of PPPs, as well as reviewing the contract farming and agricultural marketing frameworks against a good rain season in 2020/2021 helped the country realise a bumper harvest, with maize grown surpassing targets. A big milestone has been reached as far as agriculture is concerned.
However, the provision of food and nutrition continue to be banked on good rain seasons. This made Zimbabwe suffer a lot during the years from 2018 to 2020 when the country was hit by droughts and cyclones leading to shortages of food.
Within the energy sector, the government is making strides in improving the Hwange Power Station and Kariba Power Station. The nation is expecting to achieve electricity self-sufficiency by 2023. However, for 2020 and 2021, the nation continued to be defined by huge power cuts leading to some big companies shedding a lot of revenues.
Road rehabilitation and Transport Sector
A lot of strides have been made by the NDS 1in rehabilitating national roads. This demands a round of applause. The Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu road is expected to compete this year. Highways have been renovated within Harare with other roads widened such as Seke road that connects Harare and Chitungwiza. NDS 1targets national roads, hence a tick.
However, the transport sector remains insecure as the number of busses available is not enough to cater for the growing public. This demands a quick solution.
Against such a background, it is fatal to conclude that already 64% has been achieved of NDS 1 set national priority projects as major targets remain untouched. A lot is still lagging for the government to blow its whistle now. Yes, some strides were made in the agriculture, mining and roads sector, with some dams constructed, but all of these cannot account for 64% given what is left to be achieved. More is still in the pipeline. The success is not yet felt by the general public, making 64% milestone unrealistic and unfounded.