Confusion, hypocrisy cause policy inertia

A key aspect of good management is responsiveness to environmental changes.

Astute managers keep an eye on the opportunities and threats that an entity, or entire sector, may encounter in the foreseeable future.

An evident shortcoming with many managers and industrial executives in Zimbabwe has been a lack of macro-economic cognisance outside news headlines that dominate public discourse.

Numerous executives have passive understanding of their relevant subject matter to an extent that raises suspicion whether or not they actually comprehend the opportunities and threats before them.

Consider the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, which hastily took a page in The Herald to lend support to introduction of bond notes by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

But only a few nights later, at a banking corporate event, a group of prominent bankers was vocal about its dismay in the continued use of the United States dollar, preferring the weakening rand instead.

The night’s resolution was an adamant “no” to bond notes.

Perhaps impolite, there is a fair ground to assume this is a matter of understanding the opportunities and threats posed by a significant policy announcement by bankers. Alternatively, more disconcerting then, it could be simple disingenuous posturing by our executives. The latter also seems to be a pervasive custom in Zimbabwe.

At seminars hosted by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, discourse is often economically generic and politically superficial. Few executives mean what they say, and fewer are sincere about what they want.

Much so, the phrase “the elephant in the room . . . ” is frequently referenced in discussion. Frankly, there is no elephant in any room in Zimbabwe! There is only a manager and executive demographic that lacks the courage to overtly state what is good for the economy, on the premise of what is good for their own business interests! For instance, public discourse finds managers and executives mute on the enforcement of empowerment policies, yet after a few drinks many are in full support and relish the opportunity to be at the centre of a new economy!

Is this confusion or disingenuous hypocrisy? Perhaps this is why very few effective economic resolutions come out of our business interest groups; most of our business interest groups lack clarity on their own interests.

This brings a ripple effect which stifles our economy. It causes policy inertia, which is often misinterpreted as policy inconsistency.

If our managers and executives do not know who they are, what they stand for and, more importantly, where their interests lie, how then do we expect them to act upon any consistent policy direction?

When a policy is set, the success or failure of that policy lies in the responsiveness of vested economic stakeholders.

What frequently occurs in Zimbabwe is that economic stakeholders fail to respond to policy announcements, even in cases where the stakeholders are intended beneficiaries.

Consider an erudite editorial in The Herald last week calling out the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe.

The interest group is pushing Government, which will likely yield, into banning wheat imports. If Government goes ahead to ban these imports, has GMAZ invested in adequate capacity to meet the inevitable supply shortfall? Particularly, as the editorial pointed out, investment does not necessarily mean tool and plant, but it also goes into proactive value chain alignment so as to guarantee efficient production of necessary wheat output.

This means GMAZ has the onus to engage all vested stakeholders in the supply chain. If GMAZ has not undertaken this pre-condition, what will take place is policy incoherence, which is often misplaced as “Government’s fault”. Cohesion of economic stakeholders should be undertaken by stakeholders themselves, led by business interest groups and not Government.

This reverts to the notion of understanding opportunities and threats as they relate to self-interest. If Government goes ahead and bans wheat imports and continues with Statutory Instrument 64 which industry lobbied for over the last three years, managers and executives will then align themselves with headline narratives of effected cross-border traders. At the most cynical instance, these very same managers and executives offered opportunity for greater market share, given to them at their request, will then conform to Government policy inconsistency and policy monopoly narratives. Is this legitimate misunderstanding of opportunity and threats, or is it disingenuous posturing?

Zimbabwe has to create a culture of legitimacy in our economic stakeholders. Government has been culpable of significant policy misjudgment.

However, confused and hypocritical economic stakeholders have been the main culprits of policy inertia!

It would be incomplete to match this confusion and hypocrisy to the manager and executive demographic alone. On a humble regional scale, Zimbabwe comparatively has had a significant amount of youth-targeted policy initiatives.

In instances where these policies have struggled to sustain traction, intended beneficiaries have been guilty of causing policy inertia. Banks have played their part in offering credit facilities, at some point even offering unsecured lending.

However, the targeted stakeholders conducted themselves in a manner that did not sustain these policy efforts; corruption, misallocation of funds, or simple passiveness in not utilising these opportunities.

Government is a convenient entity to blame for unsuccessful policy.

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  • Gambukambu

    Interesting article, thank you. If we are honest to ourselves as a nation then we are on our our way to economic recovery. They say to know the ailment is half the cure. Why are we struggling to attract foreign direct investment as nation compared to other African countries.

    My thinking is there is indeed an elephant in the room. That keeps those outside far from us and looking inside from a safe distance. Those inside anxious and treading carefully or as you call it inert, because sudden movements can aggravate the elephant resulting in injury or even fatality.

    Mind you international business corporations spent a lot of resources in research much more than we might actually be doing as a government to analyse our policies and the conduciveness of our business environment. So my argument is they are indeed aware of threats and opportunities our policies present to them. But because of the elephant in the room those outside stay away and those inside appear hypocritical and inert. Businesses have adopted a wait and lets see attitude with our nation. Who does not know that.