Home » Industry » Technocracy Will Anchor Zim-Asset

In January, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for the recruitment of technocrats to strengthen the technical skills base of various Government departments. He called for a new paradigm in relation to competency and skills.

“Where we are going, we need to embrace a new approach to life,” he said.

“We need young cadres who are educated and capable of negotiating with other developed nations. This is the new crop of cadres with technical skills who are very bright young people.”

Such insight and pragmatism demonstrated that the Vice President appreciates that as it stands, Zimbabwe’s economic landscape requires the capacity not only to quickly turn around the struggling economy, but also to implement its most ambitious economic strategy yet, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

However, the use of technocrats by the Zimbabwe Government is not new.

An identifiable technocracy, which the Government treated as “royal game”, emerged and flourished in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Best viewed through its most prominent members such as the then Attorney General, Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Finance Bernard Chidzero, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr Kombo Moyana amongst many, this group formed a nationalistic and self-consciously independent stratum of educated professionals that had national development at heart.

Subtle but watchful, this elite group set Zimbabwe on a course of post-independence modernisation that witnessed economic boom throughout the 1980s, high educational attainment and a national health service that was the envy of many nations in the Southern African region.

Additionally, the use of technocrats particularly in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development during that period, reassured international financial markets and investors who initially doubted “Marxist” Robert Mugabe’s ability to keep his promise that he would act as a guarantor of Western commercial interests in a post-independence Zimbabwe.

In other words, the appointment of technocrats in Government showed the importance of the seriousness with which the ZANU-PF Government took its 1980 election promises.

Because at that time technocratic culture was firmly established within Government, politicians and the public in general viewed technocrats as a legitimate entity within society.

Indeed, the 1980s and early 1990s are a period that is engraved in the memory of most Zimbabweans when it comes to relative prosperity.

Even today, many still attempt to draw a direct co-relation between the use of experts that people Government structures and the success of Government policies, in particular, in the education and economic sectors.

However, in the late 1990s, the Government started side stepping technocrats in the designing and implementation of policy, and by the end of the first 10 years in the new millennium, they had been a thorough rupture with technocratic culture.

That explains why most Government ministries have paid little attention to the Vice President’s announcement.

Evidently, there is little political will and psychological readiness to put back talented and qualified professionals on the pedestal.

Without the expertise of technocrats, the home grown Zim-Asset provides a good example of a technocratic public economic policy that stands the danger of yielding very little.

The complex demands of Zim-Asset implementation require technical experts and Government must not take any chances, but engage those that have the necessary skills to manage it.

With Zimbabwe having experienced extensive flight of technical experts who worked at Hwange and Kariba Power Stations, or in mines and agricultural settings, the success of Zim-Asset’s vision to revive industry or agriculture stands little chance without a well-designed programme to recruit experts.

The rebuilding of roads to the modernisation of the economy, mines, industries and agriculture will require a powerful army of technicians, agriculturalists, experts in social development and economic policy makers who understand the hydraulics, as it were, of Zim-Asset as a sub-system of Zimbabwe’s and indeed, international economy.

Crucially, these technical experts also need to have previous experience in such projects. Government needs to embark on an ambitious head-hunting programme, and also opening the public service to candidates with talent and exceptional qualifications.

Zim-Asset also needs managers from the private sector and international organisations who know how to implement complex economic strategies and achieve results.

This means all Government ministries responsible for implementing the economic blue print under the different clusters need to be transformed into competitive corporate entities.

An example of an agency that requires highly qualified and experienced technocrats is a temporary statistical agency. Relevant data is indispensable to the success of the Zim-Asset economic programme.

Ideally, a “Zim-Asset Statistical Office”, a special agency to work in collaboration with the Central Statistics Office and exclusively on the collection and analysis of data on Zim-Asset has to be equipped with highly technical staff.

However, as the “accelerated” implementation of Zim-Asset steams ahead, there is clearly still poor understanding of the dearth of technocratic capacity in Government.

It is doubtful whether Government has done an audit to determine whether they have adequate technical skills to implement the economic blue-print.

With GDP still below the peak in the 1990s, the Finance Minister and World Bank having revised down the growth rate and institutions emblematic of Zimbabwe’s success under stress or having collapsed, the outlook for Zimbabwe’s economy in 2015 is not very positive.

In these circumstances, the nation is pinning its hopes on Zim-Asset, of which technical expertise is crucial. Indeed, Government needs nothing short of a technocratic recruitment revolution, if the Zim-Asset economic blue-print is to quickly turn around the economy. Without the right technical skills, the success of the economic blue-print might turn out to be an arduous, next to impossible task.

Tinhu is a researcher and political analyst based in Harare.

Source : The Herald