I am urging Zimbabwe to try a new approach to economic planning. Zimbabwe needs to develop a comprehensive 50 year national economic blueprint to support the 2030 Vision and lay a strong foundation of a powerful economic recovery through an intergenerational, all inclusive economic planning and management model. We have been using the current short horizon, single plan approach for years and it has not given us the best possible results given our potential. If the approach has not worked in the past, it is highly unlikely that it will work this time around. The same approach will always lead to the same results; it does not matter how many times we try it.
For a long time, Zimbabwe has used a five year economic planning model. The only known long term blue print was Vision 2020 which never saw the light of the day. The country’s economic archives are full of such five year economic blue prints that were never implemented. There is no evidence that these plans where evaluated to ascertain the reasons why they had stillbirths. This systemic failure to follow through in implementing economic plans has given birth to the adage that Zimbabwe is great at coming up with strategies but bad at implementation. That we come up with plans that we do not implement is true; what is false is the idea that we as Zimbabweans come up with great strategies and fail to execute them. No real strategy can be said to be great unless it is capable of executing because by their purposes, strategies must execute. A real strategy is like a bomb. A bomb, no matter how powerful it is, cannot be said to be a real bomb if it cannot detonate. A poor bomb that detonates and detonates when it is supposed to detonate is better than a big powerful bomb that fails detonate, more so when it is supposed to detonate. Same with strategy. We are not talking here about implementing a strategy and failing to get results; some strategies can be implemented and produce poor or bad results. We are talking of strategic plans that are never implemented. Nothing in them or about them was never implemented or if anything was implemented, it was piece meal.
While this writer has no concrete facts on why the previous economic blue prints never saw the light of the day, it is known in strategy that one cannot expect to solve complex economic problems of national nature and turn situations around while operating within short time horizon especially when you are starting with a dysfunctional economic system and you do not have adequate financial resources to drive action forward. The situation Zimbabwe faces is a situation that fits this description. The economic system is dysfunctional and the country faces serious investment challenges. These two major factors make it difficult if not practically impossible to achieve major and serious transformations within a short period of time. This is not management; this is strategy. This is how things work in large, complex and open systems.
A big ambitious 50 year economic blue print or master plan is the best starting point and a strong and sustainable economic recovery. First, such a plan ensures continuity of focus across election cycles and eliminates of coming up with brand new economic manifestos and plans every election, plans that speak only to themselves and not to the previous or the future. The problem with this approach is chasing new and different hares every five years, meaning resources, time and energy invested in the previous cycles went to waste. For most serious and complex problems and large national efforts of high impact, five years is way too little a period within which to put up a strategy, mobile resources, build the execution capacity and capability and to successfully execute. Most of the things economics operate according natural laws. The minimum gestation period for a human being is nine months; you cant demand to have a normal baby in three months. This is the same with economic results. If you already have all the resources you want and you have a clear, correct and accurate knowhow or strategy to produce the results then the story can be different; you can leverage on the resources to speed up things a bit, but still not outside the parameters of the natural laws. Second, a 50 year planning horizons broadens the participation base and enables more Zimbabweans to contribute not only intellectually but also practically. Involving all generations including the youth in the 50 year national economic blue print ensures that the young generations grow up with some clarity of the kind of Zimbabwe they will grow into and play a part to make. This allows a continuous 50 year button passing process of contributing to the blue print intellectually, emotionally and practically. Third, thinking in a 50 year time horizons opens up dramatically breakthrough possibilities that are impossible to attain while thinking at shorter term horizons. Fourth, resources that may be difficult go get within a five year or ten year possible are easier to get within a fitty year time frame. By now you may be thinking: Simon Bere is dreaming, he is talking about 50 year economic blue prints, what about the current immediate challenges the country is experiencing. Here is the deal.
Instead of working with one economic plan, I am proposing that Zimbabwe operates with four multilevel economic plans that are simultaneously implemented.
- The 50 Year visionary Zimbabwe Economic Master Plan or Blue Print
- The 30 Year Strategic Zimbabwe Economic Strategic Plan drawn from the 50 Year Visionary plan and then powered with detailed 30 Year implementation plan
- The 20 Year Zimbabwe Operational Level Economic Plan Drawn from the 30 Year Strategic Plan and packed with details of for implementation during the 20 years
- The 10 Year Zimbabwe Tactical Plan and implementation details for the ten years. The ten year tactical plan is the one that will be used to address immediate issues.
There are many Zimbabweans and these can work at different levels. While others work on the 50 year visionary blue print, others are working on the 30 year strategy while still others are operating the 20 year operational plan and others on the ten year tactical plan. Strategic planning and review meetings where drivers at the different levels periodically meet to strategise, plan, review, evaluate, share and discuss ensure that the four levels remain in synch and they do not end up operating separate loose cannons.
This is not a replacement of 2030 Vision; instead this is in support of Vision 2030. This I believe will rocket propel the current effort towards attaining a middle income status by 2030.
©Simon Bere, 2019