Tuesday, 22 November 2011

‘Beyond the Enclave’ and ZCTU’s revisited 'sustainable development' social contract for Zimbabwe.


‘Beyond the Enclave’ and ZCTU’s revisited 'sustainable development' social contract for Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) recently  launched a new book, Beyond the Enclave, Toward a Pro-poor and Inclusive DevelopmentStrategy for Zimbabwe  The book, which has been well received by members of the affiliate trade unions, is an important and timely academic reminder of the broad socio-economic challenges that Zimbabweans are facing. 

It is also a book that must be read with patience and attention to detail because it outlines what can be considered fundamental flaws within our national economy, both in relation to immediate post-independence Zimbabwe, the Economic  Structural Adjusment Programme (ESAP) years and in what has been described as the crisis years in the 2000’s through to the ‘transitional years’  from 2009 to present day.  
It must also be noted that the study was also compiled with the assistance of Zimbabwe's labour think tank, Labour and Economic Development Research Institute (LEDRIZ) as well as the Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism in Southern Africa (ANSA), organisations that both have strong links with labour issues in the Southern African region.

The primary analysis of the book is that Zimbabwe's national economy faces the challenge of being characterized by a 'dual'  and an 'enclave' economy.  By this, the ZCTU argues that the ‘dual’ nature of our economy is to be found in its formal and informal components, wherein, there is a large unused labour force in the informal sector and a privileged few in the formal. Either way, as the research contends, such a framework leads to a continuation of poverty of the many and the perpetuation of privilege for the few. The ‘enclave’ economy, to attempt at simplification, is referred to as that which is more or less the gate-keeping of the benefits to be accrued from the national wealth by the few on the basis of not only the inherited colonial economy but also the liberalisation of the 1990s.

And it is because of such a skewed economy that the book calls for a re-think of various facets of the national development policy. It therefore itemizes land, trade, mining, agriculture, gender equality, social welfare, education, trade, the labour market and manufacturing amongst others, as key areas that are in need of urgent attention and reform if the country is to return to a path of sustainable development.
On the issue of land, the ZCTU calls for a comprehensive land policy in tandem with a land audit. There is mention, in part, that the land reform process, is now irreversible, as agreed to by the three political parties in the inclusive government. In the proposal for a new land policy, there is the proposal that the issue of land tenure be finalized in order for the administration of land to be less driven by politicians but by democratic and people driven local government structures.
In relation to social welfare, the book urges policy makers to be cognizant of the importance of investing in health, education, and general infrastructure that relates to public transport in order to diminish poverty as well as to create employment.

On trade, it urges that there be a much more cautious approach to foreign direct investment (FDI) where there is less of an open sesame approach and one that takes into account the lessons of the ESAP years. For the ZCTU, any trade related investment in the country must be tied to infrastructural development, commitment to good governance, as well as the importance of all stakeholders accepting that the state must intervene in the market to ensure that social welfare is not undermined in the name of 'free market' capitalism. Instead, the argument of the labour body is that it remains imperative that the state be allowed the right to intervene in the market in order to keep poverty at bay. It however recommends that any changes to the multiple currency regime in Zimbabwe should be long term policies and should be premised on either making Zimbabwe part of the Rand Monetary Area or pegging the new Zimbabwe dollar against gold reserves.

The study  also emaphasises the importance of prioritising gender and gender related issues in all national economic programmes with particular emphasis on protecting women from the scourge of endemic poverty as well as understanding the importance of reigning in the informal economy which affects women the most. The proposition given is that there should be a national gender policy, the engendering of all national policies, the stepping up of social welfare funding and the improvement of property ownership/tenure and access to resources by all women.
In relation to social welfare, the study insists on the expansion of social protection mechanisms to prevent people from sliding further into poverty. These would include a much more comprehensive social security cover scheme, a national health insurance framework, all to be funded by a partnership between government and donors.

Further still, the book also goes on to cover areas that include mining, financial services and  science and technology frameworks. All of which are alluded to in what can be described as the 'sustainable development' model, a-la-cart the new World Bank and IMF thinking around the same issues. 

As evidence of this new approach, the study emphasizes the need for Zimbabwe to learn from international experiences and knowledge production around economic reforms, liberalization as well as the role of the state in a national economy.

All of the arguments presented in the book are well argued even though they are primarily aimed at a new negotiated approach to economic reform in Zimbabwe. The approach of the ZCTU is now one that can be considered less radical, and more in sync with global thinking on what is sustainable development and economic  reform.
Most of the recommendations in the book appear to be Social Democratic in ideological intent but are cautious on making this point patently clear.  This is probably because the book is intended for audiences beyond the workers, and therefore essentially assuages any fears of further radicalism emerging from the national labour union.  It is a well thought out attempt at a new approach to the economic crisis that the country is facing. 

Occassionally it appears to borrow a lot from the World Bank, at other times it remains grounded in the historicity of our national economic crisis. It is however interesting to measure whether the inclusive government will act beyond having merely attended the launch of the book. And it also remains to be seen whether the ZCTU itself remains united or strong enough to carry out the necessary policy lobbying, advocacy to ensure that the set ore recommendations in each chapter of the book are at least seriously considered by the government as well as members of the public.