Many government support programs and business strategies often fail on the road between conceptualization and reaching their targets if they are not designed well. This can stem from a variety of reasons, from insufficient targeting to firms’ real pain points the design of overly complex deployment channels which become access barriers to the most vulnerable groups, or the lack of coordination and follow-up between different measures and existing policy elements. The implementation of policy positions has been one of the greatest challenges for Zimbabwe despite the availability of well-documented targets and end goals.
From 1980 to the present day, a number of “economic blueprints” have managed to come up with specific targets and the majority of the blueprints have failed to birth the desired results. These include the Growth with Equity (1981), Transitional National Development Plan (1982-1985), First Five Year National Development Plan (1985-1990), Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (1991-1995), Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (1996-2000), Vision 2020 & Long-Term Development Strategy (1997-2020), Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (2001-2002), National Economic Revival Programme (2003-2004), National Macro Economic Policy Framework (2005-2006), National Economic Development Priority Programme (2006-2008), Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy (2007-2011), Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme I (2009) & II (2010-2012), Medium Term Plan (2011-2015), Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (2013-2018), Transitional Stabilization Programme (2019-2020), and National Development Strategy I (2021-2025).
With all these plans in place, one would wonder why economic performance in these phases was totally the opposite of what was envisioned by the policymaker, and why the Zimbabwean economy is where it is now. Indeed, it is not an easy road to move from conceptualization to implementation and ultimately to the achievement of the desired results and targets. Some of the economic plans were abandoned early before they made any impact. The successful deployment of the chosen mix of measures and policies strongly depends on the government’s ability to access, navigate and organize its own resources, be they financial or human, as well as the close coordination with other key players in the ecosystem. Often, there is little incentive for policymakers – who have to focus on the next election – to invest resources in an abstract future. Thus, some of the Programmes did not achieve their targets due to a lack of adequate funding that covers the entire duration. Moreover, economic and natural shocks derail progress and may entail the diversion of scarce resources and budgeted funds to mitigate the effects of such.
Zimbabwe is now in the third year of implementing the National Development Strategy I (NDS1) and there is little traction on the ground to signal that it would be a success story. In its first year of inception, the country just like any other country in the world was fighting against the pandemic. Considerable ground towards a sustained growth of the economy towards an upper-middle income society by 2030 was lost since the priority was to protect lives. Such catastrophes are some of the unfortunate events that are experienced as governments move to implement programs. The success of the NDS1 is premised on a stable macroeconomic environment to enhance certainty and confidence in the economy by anchoring exchange rates and inflation. Timely availing of funds to support set-out programmes and projects in the Strategy is also crucial in the implementation of the objectives in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Also, the availability of key enablers such as energy, transport and water is critical to propel the economy up the value chains coupled with strategic investment in new critical infrastructure as well as the upgrade and modernization of the existing.
As a nation, learning from past mistakes is crucial and equally critical to avoid repeating them. It is common knowledge that disasters happen and they can derail plans and sometimes lead to their abandonment entirely. However, when strategizing or planning for the future, a policymaker is always expected to make variations for such eventualities and put in place counter and safeguarding measures to ensure that the intended targets are achieved within a reasonable timeframe. From 1980 to 2030, it is clear see some national programmes overlapping. Sometimes, some long-term projects are put on hold to pursue short-term or transitional programmes. There is a tendency to pursue short-term gains at the expense of long-term economic gains. The pursuance of short-term gains has often disturbed economic stability and reversed years of economic recovery gains. The road from conceptualization to reaching targets is one that requires patience which most, especially politicians, do lack.
In an endeavour to reach the intended outcomes while travelling the road from conceptualization to reaching targets, it is of paramount importance that there is consistency in policies. The Government of Zimbabwe has been in heated arguments with various stakeholders in terms of consistency in policy which has been considered to be a contributing factor to the low business confidence and high level of uncertainty. There are a significant number of statutory instruments that are instituted time and again with some resulting in unintended consequences and being reversed in the instance. This has exacerbated uncertainty negatively affecting investment and decision making. Many times, it may be prudent for the policymaker to come up with statutory instruments, but the lack of buy-in from the intended users can render their effectiveness. Thus, stakeholder consultation should always be carried out before any major policy changes to enhance buy-in and ownership by all the key stakeholders.
Critically, during the conceptualization stage, prescribing the steps to take while ignoring the realities on the ground is a recipe for disaster. This is the reason why some programs are abandoned midway. Context is always a key factor that the policymaker has to consider in setting out the targets. In conclusion, decision-making at the national level requires all key stakeholders to be on the planning table and to achieve the targets, it requires deliberate efforts by all parties to ensure the full implementation of the strategies to achieve the intended targets.