Is there juice in the MDC's million-job manifesto?
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) recently launched an economic blueprint – known as Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital and Environment (Juice) – which promises, among other things, to create a million jobs in the first five years of the MDC taking over power and an 8% annual growth rate over the same period.
The plan is targeted at Zimbabwe's unemployed citizens. Independent analysts estimate the country's structural unemployment rate at 80% of the population.
Trashing Zanu-PF's indigenisation law, which forces all foreign companies to give up 51% of their shareholding to locals, Tsvangirai said in the document: "The current version of indigenisation is tantamount to nationalisation and expropriation and is clearly a political gimmick by Zanu-PF."
Juice, he said, would generate decent jobs that would not only end poverty but also empower citizens. The blueprint advocates for a broad-based economic upliftment of citizens by "expanding people's choices in attaining sustainable livelihoods, not through asset stripping and looting", he added.
The MDC-T has also promised that between 2013 and 2018 it would normalise Zimbabwe's international relations, mobilise domestic savings, bring about macroeconomic stability anchored by single-digit inflation and attract foreign direct investment of at least 30% of gross domestic product (GDP).
The MDC-T also envisages running a green economy, deepening and strengthening the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, and implementing a Natural Resources Charter.
The party's plans include creating a $100-billion economy by 2040, increasing Zimbabwe's power-generating capacity to 6?000 megawatts by 2018 compared with the 1200MW generated at present, rebuilding the country's infrastructure, putting in place a social contract and ensuring decent wages.
Zanu-PF has been quick to tear into the plan with Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere describing it as a "hare-brained scheme" that would not fool anyone.
"The economy can only be expanded through Zanu-PF'S black economic policies. Indigenisation of the economy is the only sure way to go, not to dream of creating jobs in an economy controlled by foreigners," said Kasukuwere.
Political and economic commentator Psychology Maziwisa, who is a fiery critic of Tsvangirai, says Juice is not a well-thought-out economic plan. "There is no juice in that thing," said Maziwisa.
"It's an empty policy by an insubstantial party desperate to gain support from the people ahead of crucial elections. It's absurd that a party that has failed to create a single job in four years can talk of creating one million jobs in five years. They are obviously taking Zimbabweans for fools," he said.
Economic commentator Eric Bloch said Juice sounds like a very good programme but it is dependent on components such as employment creation, which requires the "restoration of monetary liquidity", and the projected 8% growth, which will rely on "major policy changes in the banking sector and agriculture".
The restoration of Zimbabwe's international relations remains key to attracting foreign direct investment, said Bloch, adding that the country could not continue to operate in isolation.
'Too ambitious' a plan
But another economist, Stevenson Dlamini, who lectures at the National University of Science and Technology's department of banking, said that, although Juice is a step in the right direction, a million jobs in five years is "too ambitious" because of slowing foreign direct investment.
Dlamini said fewer jobs could be created in small to medium-sized enterprises, but not at the magnitude envisaged by the premier.
Bongani Ngwenya, the dean of the business faculty at Solusi University, said, although Juice is a positive initiative, its success rests on implementation.
The country's $3.8-billion 2013 budget does not adequately address infrastructural development, which is key to economic recovery, Ngwenya said, adding that it does not tally with the MDC-T's economic blueprint.