Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Kudos to the Zimbabwe technocratic crusade

Cde Bernard Bwoni: ZANU PF UK
 Vice Secretary General
It has been a very interesting week to say the least with cases of ‘stray donkeys’ and ‘little minds that cannot be corrected’. The President HE RG Mugabe returned from his well-deserved break and he was on form and rejuvenated indeed. The preparations for the country’s tobacco marketing season are also underway, another bumper tobacco crop is expected and the only worry is that there could be an over-supply of the crop that could lead to lower prices. The Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa was in the mix stressing the importance of recruiting the right technocrats to drive up the country’s economic transformation. 

The country and its economic success will be guaranteed if strategic sectors of the country are manned by competent, qualified and patriotic personnel who can solve problems. The move by government to have technocrats in strategic positions of the country’s core is a brave and progressive step in the right direction. A technical approach is necessary for Zimbabwe to realise its full developmental potential. It is important that those patriotic individuals with the right expertise and education are inserted right in the nucleus of areas of strategic importance. However the technocrats will need to rise above the disabling political antipathy.

The move to recruit technocrats will mean that crucial sectors of the country are run by some of best qualified, competent and who put the country first. It is in effect a government hired by the people as opposed to elected, the experts steering the economy without people even seeing them as politicians. The criterion for qualifying to top leadership is expertise and ability to deal with real life situations and working hard to ensure successful application of agreed outcomes. Zimbabwe does have an abundance of such technocrats both inside the country and outside. It is about finding exactly the right committed individuals who will continue to carry the people forward. 

The technocrat is an expert, granted, but being an expert on its own is not the same as wisdom. The technocrat has to polish their own wisdom through application, learning from failures, discipline and that sacred belief in doing things for the greater good. But is wisdom enough to rescue Zimbabwe from its current economic quagmire? Proper technocracy means tapping into minds from many disciplines of technocrats with hands on experience not just academic education and expertise. Developing countries like Zimbabwe will struggle to achieve lasting economic progress if incompetent, unqualified and unpatriotic personal remain embedded into critical areas of the nation’s strategic core. The remedy is a mix of technocrats and the non-technocratic elements. It is stating the obvious that governing is a social construct that serves social functions and technocrats will inherently struggle with the social functions of governance.

The government of Zimbabwe has remained committed to good governance and challenging corruption and other social ills. The task of eradicating corruption and maintaining a corrupt-free system is very delicate and requires genuine political will. The ability to understand a situation and deal with it correctly does not have anything to do with popularity but with knowledge of the subject period.  The reality is that technocrats have the ability to rise above the paralyzing and polarizing political poison prevalent continent-wide at the moment. They often bring very little in terms of ‘baggage’ and more of a reputational advantage both in terms of knowledge and a sense of putting national interest above paltry party political pursuits.

Let’s not confuse technocrats with loudmouth academics-turned-politicians and names like Ibbo Mandaza often spring to mind. The thing with technocrats is that they can practically claim wiser economic custodianship, greater ideological commitment to economic principles and deeper connections with transnational and multinational financial networks both domestic and international. The economy is the driving power of any nation thus academic and practical awareness of economics are a prerequisite of those intending on positions of economic influence and a blend of technocracy and democracy is sure meant to lead to economic transformation. 

Ideally a country’s finance ministry has to have technocrats with an academic background in economics and finance as standard because even if you want to fuse the realities on the ground with economic principle you would need an awareness, understanding and academic background in the subject. Economics is a critical discipline for its all-encompassing nature and the fact that it is intricately attached to the political function of the state. One would be forgiven for feeling uncomfortable with someone who has not studied economics to make heavy economic decisions that will greatly impact the country for decades to come. However with the right technocrats in the background this can work, but it has to be the right technocrats.

A seamless unification of the political and expert functions of governing offers Zimbabwe a possible route out of the economic muddle the country is confronted with. However thing to understand is that having a degree does not make you automatically a technocrat because technocracy is defined by rational rather than idealist thought processes where decisions are made based on the real world processes.  A political functionary who can make good moral decisions with the public’s interest whilst also having an awareness and ability to comprehend different expert opinions and paradigms is crucial to any country’s economic revival. The country’s leadership needs to be more conversant and appreciative enough to consult with technocrats to help make sound economic decisions and at the same time be well versed in the humanities and social sciences. It is important that leadership is driven by ethos and that raison d’etre to do things right and to do the right thing while considering long-term solutions. This means removing from power those politicians who only value self-benefit over the public good.

It is impossible to exclude facts from political decision-making processes and worldwide people yearn for a clever, dispassionate and principled government and Zimbabwe is no exception. When the usual rulers prove indecisive or are discredited, turning to the wisdom and expertise of technocrats is a way forward. It is possible that when political power is not publicly contested at all, electability is irrelevant and expertise can give the ambitious an edge. Technocracy is actually a proven model of governance which has elevated the standard of living of a people from a third world to a first world in the case of Singapore and China. An interesting point to note is that in China’s Politburo Standing Committee eight out of the nine members are engineers and also the current Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has degrees in Economics and Law, a healthy academic combination for governance of function. But is that sustainable in the long run?

The Chinese have engineers, scientists, economists and mathematicians in the political fold especially at Politburo level instead of lawyers and others social science qualified politicians. Singapore is a country run by technocrats and is often highly touted as a shining example in the governance of function for the greater good of all citizenry through a clear understanding of their needs and political will to ensure these needs are met.  Herbert Hoover who was the President of the United States in 1929 when the stock market collapsed was a professional mining engineer and there was nothing he could do when the American economy went into flames then. Here is an example of technocracy backfiring or was it just an unfortunate moment in American history? There is also the argument that China, run by technocrats, suffers from heavy pollution, unsustainable inequalities and rampant corruption and the technocrats have not managed to halt the degeneracy.

VP Mnangagwa leading the call for technocrats
Zimbabwe’s move to embrace technocracy for its expertise-based approach is commendable and should incorporate the intricate details of the ZIMASSET economic blueprint and the country’s economic empowerment policies. The country deserves better, an urgent need for technocrats who will spearhead the rehabilitation of the country’s dilapidated infrastructure and dysfunctional institutions. It needs practical functionaries who will unclog systems and clear the entire deadwood that remains the bane of most national establishments and institutions. 

VP Mnangagwa started off very well making it clear that corrupt officials would be dealt with decisively and now he is talking progressively about harnessing the expertise of technocrats. The ruling party has always been responsive when it comes to matters of national importance. It should be said that institutions are bigger than personalities and a reform programme can only be deemed a success when its momentum outpaces its original architects. The invitation of technocrats into government will bring that added edge into the country’s economic recovery process.

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