Mashakada and Biti rivals for MDC economic policy?


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The Movement for Democratic Change’s shadow Minister for Economic Affairs Tendai Biti and the shadow Minister for Finance Tapiwa Mashakada were reported to be emerging as rivals for the control of the party’s economic policy, according to the United States embassy.

This was after the two had briefed the embassy officials on the party’s economic programme for Reconstruction, Stabilisation, Recovery, and Transformation (RESTART).

The embassy said a cursory review of the RESTART draft shared by Mashakada showed it to be extremely vague in critical areas, perhaps a consequence of the MDC’s very large “tent” that included business and labour, white farmers, and socialists.

“RESTART is perhaps not as specific an economic manifesto as we would hope from a party ready to govern, but it is certainly an improvement on the unrealistic or non-existent economic planning of the current government,” the embassy said.

“Because meaningful political change is generally accepted as a necessary precondition for meaningful economic change here, the MDC’s paper is likely to remain principally an academic exercise for some time.”

The embassy said Biti and Mashakada might be emerging as rivals for control of MDC economic policy but neither appeared to make an initially-promising economic minister given the gravity of Zimbabwe’s economic condition.

“Both are well under 40 while lacking substantive private-sector business or public-sector budgeting background. Many moderate, working-level ZANU PF administrators in the Finance, Trade and the technical Ministries bring considerably more hands-on experience and expertise to the table (even if their proposals are being presently stymied by Mugabe and hardline ZANU-PF ideologues),”the embassy said.

 

Ed: Mashakada is now in Biti’s shoes as Minister of Economic Planning while Biti is Minister of Finance.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1971, MDC SHADOW MINISTERS PREVIEW PARTY’S ECONOMIC

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1971

2003-09-29 15:22

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001971

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPT. FOR AF KANSTEINER AND DUNLAP, AF/S DELISI AND RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR TPFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV ECON EFIN ETRD SOCI ZI MDC

SUBJECT: MDC SHADOW MINISTERS PREVIEW PARTY’S ECONOMIC

PLATFORM

 

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: MDC shadow minister for economic affairs

and MDC MP Tendai Biti on September 23 summarized to emboff

the elements of the party’s economic plan, called RESTART.

The plan, which he cast as essentially a social democratic

platform, was being circulated for comment and could be

expected to be released publicly by the end of the year.

Broad in scope but short on specifics, the lengthy policy

paper is not likely to alter the political dynamic here, but

some elements could find their way onto the agenda of

inter-party talks. Shadow Finance Minister Tapiwa Mashakada

on September 24 shared with the Embassy a draft of RESTART,

for which he sought international support. END SUMMARY.

 

RESTART Lays Out “Social Democratic” Agenda

——————————————-

 

2. (SBU) Tendai Biti elaborated to emboff on September 23 a

chapter-by-chapter summary of the principal chapters in a

60-plus page policy paper that had been a year in the making.

The opening chapter laid out general principles,

establishing the party’s economic approach as essentially

“social democratic.” Principal objectives underscored up

front included establishment of a more participatory

democracy, measures to create a functioning economy, and

effecting redistributive justice.

 

3. (SBU) Chapter two outlined immediate priorities to be

addressed: (1) reconstituion of the political structure,

including the civil service, (2) measures to turn around

failing social infrastructure, such as health, education, and

transportation systems, (3) the HIV/AIDS crisis, (4) job

creation, (5) and land reform. Biti observed that the

degraded civil service would pose one of the party’s biggest

challenges upon assumption of power, although a hardy core of

professionals yet survived the onslaught of political and

economic pressures. Chapter Three addressed “cross-cutting

issues”, such as labor, gender, land productivity, and

trade.

 

4. (SBU) Biti described Chapter Four, which focused on

macroeconomic issues, as the paper’s most weighty. Sketched

out without too much detail would be interest rate and

foreign exchange policies, and measures to stem spiralling

inflation. The paper called for 100 percent retention of

foreign currency by exporters and a more realistic exchange

rate, among other things. Budget deficits were likely to be

severe — 25 percent of GDP after the first year “if we’re

lucky.” The paper’s vetting process had resulted in a

scaling back of earlier expensive party promises, such as

free anti-retrovirals for needy patients. Biti acknowledged

that some of even the most obvious remedies would be

difficult for certain segments of the public to swallow, but

the most knowledgeable, including some within ZANU-PF,

recognized their necessity. Indeed, he expected that ZANU-PF

would borrow some of the ideas, and that some proposals could

find their way onto an agenda for inter-party talks. Chapter

Five would describe the treatment of various sectors,

including mining, agriculture, and transportation.

 

Redistributive Justice Under Land Reform

—————————————-

 

5. (SBU) On land reform, Biti said the paper was based on

the premise that the country could not afford either the

status quo or the status quo ante. He asserted that the

paper’s treatment of the topic was built on the party’s

“Synopsis of Land Reform” released in April 2000, which built

on the 1998 donors’ conference on land reform. The approach

hinged on four basic principles: (1) conveyance would be

voluntary, (2) one-man one-farm, (3) maximum plot sizes would

be determined regionally, (4) a punitive tax would be imposed

on unused land. Redistribution would be conducted in three

phases: a land audit to determine actual occupancy and use on

a farm-by-farm basis; an examination of historical and legal

claims to the property; and the awarding of legal possession

by a land commission. He said possession would be based

largely on long-term leases along the lines of the model

employed in Zambia, with beneficiaries determined according

to needs and abilities.

 

International Role Under RESTART

——————————–

6. (SBU) As for an international role in Zimbabwe’s

recovery, Biti said the paper did not expressly address it

but that everybody recognized its importance. The party

would be approaching the diplomatic community at the

appropriate time to encourage formation of a “Marshall Plan”

for Zimbabwe. He conceded that the country would probably

require at least three years of sustained structural reform

before foreign direct investment was likely to become a

significant economic factor.

 

7. (SBU) Biti said the paper had been circulated to

prominent Zimbabwean and regional academics for comment. He

expected that some of their comments to be incorporated in

the next draft, which was due out by the end of September.

That draft would be sent to wider audiences for comment,

including to the USG.

 

8. (SBU) Shadow Finance Minister Tapiwa Mashakada on

September 24 presented econoff with a draft of RESTART, a

copy of which Embassy is pouching to the AF/S. Mashakada was

more explicit than Biti in stressing the need to line up

donor funding for RESTART and a future MDC government.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

9. (SBU) A cursory review of the RESTART draft shared by

Mashakada shows it to be extremely vague in critical areas,

perhaps a consequence of the MDC’s very large “tent” that

includes business and labor, white farmers, and socialists.

It is mostly a rehash and update of “The Bridge,” the party’s

economic campaign document for the 2002 presidential

elections.   RESTART is perhaps not as specific an economic

manifesto as we would hope from a party ready to govern, but

it is certainly an improvement on the unrealistic or

non-existent economic planning of the current government.

 

10. (SBU) Because meaningful political change is generally

accepted as a necessary precondition for meaningful economic

change here, the MDC’s paper is likely to remain principally

an academic exercise for some time. Nonetheless, MDC

attention to difficult economic issues is a positive and

overdue development, even if its prescriptions remain vague

and unrealistic in some areas. For now, the party enjoys the

luxury of time and the absence of publicity or public

expectation in crafting its economic policies. The paper may

face a bumpy road, though, when subjected to greater scrutiny

among the diverse interests represented in the MDC’s

leadership and broad membership, particularly from trade

unionists and academics who tend to reject “liberal

economics.” The recommendations can be expected to provoke

knee-jerk opposition by the ruling party in the short term,

but could become relevant to an agenda for inter-party talks

— should they ever move forward.

 

11. (SBU) Biti and Mashakada may be emerging as rivals for

control of MDC economic policy. Neither would appear to make

an initially-promising economic minister given the gravity of

Zimbabwe’s economic condition. Both are well under 40 while

lacking substantive private-sector business or public-sector

budgeting background. Many moderate, working-level ZANU PF

administrators in the Finance, Trade and the technical

Ministries bring considerably more hands-on experience and

expertise to the table (even if their proposals are being

presently stymied by Mugabe and hardline ZANU-PF ideologues).

Most businessmen hope an MDC president would enlist a

prominent private-sector figure to steer a Finance Ministry

tasked with turning around what has been – by some measures –

the world’s fastest declining economy over the past 3 years,

rewarding young and loyal MDC stalwarts like Biti and

Mashakada with deputy minister and permsec positions.

 

12. (SBU) BIO NOTE: An extremely energetic and engaging

interlocutor, Biti is at once confident and self-effacing. A

successful labor and constitutional lawyer with an old-line

Harare firm, he readily conceded his lack of credentials in

economics. Nonetheless, he was very enthusiastic about

economic themes and stressed his interest in the experiences

of other developing countries emerging from political strife,

such as Chile, Peru, and even post-war Europe. He emphasized

his excitement in being at the fulcrum of Zimbabwean history

but claimed to be tired of politics, notwithstanding his

youth. Biti said he did not intend to run for parliament in

the next election, and speculated that he may pursue an

academic or business position overseas for some time after

his term expired, with a view to learning first hand about a

“successful developing country model”, such as Malaysia.

 

SULLIVAN

(25 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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