May 7, 2009
By Thomas M. Woods and Roger Bate
Slowly but surely, Zimbabwe is showing signs of life. A unity
government that married the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) and President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF was
finally created earlier this year. And though a bitter and
crippling power struggle continues, often publicly, there is one
profound difference that gives hope: Individuals in positions of
authority are now actively trying to help the people of this
shattered country. The MDC leader-turned-prime minister, Morgan
Tsvangirai, seems keenly aware that he is in a race against time.
But as he put it during May Day rallies, "This government is
broke," and it's increasingly clear that without serious reform,
help may not be on the way.
This is bad news for everyone, particularly Tsvangirai and his
MDC. If these newcomers do not improve matters relatively quickly,
they risk being seen as parties to Mugabe's misrule. Frantic to
find funds, Tsvangirai and other MDC ministers have begun a world
donor tour asking for help. Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai
Biti, says the country will need $45 billion over the next five
years to bring down hyperinflation, keep up emergency food
assistance, reopen schools and hospitals, pay civil servants, and
rebuild a tattered infrastructure.
There's just one problem: After years of despotic rule and
thuggery, no one wants Mugabe to get his hands on the handouts.
Western donors do not trust Mugabe or his cronies in Zanu-PF, and
they are not yet convinced by the power-sharing agreement. Sending
aid through nongovernmental organizations (thereby bypassing the
government entirely) is only a band-aid solution.And though South
Africa and Botswana, and a few other African states, have announced
credit lines of $400 million, these lifelines are a far cry from
the $5 billion pledged. Worse, the region's promised aid seems to
rely almost entirely upon Western donors' willingness to foot the
bill. The European Union and the United States have stated clearly
that they will not step forward until there are irreversible signs
of democratic and economic reform. In fact, neither will lift the
targeted economic and travel sanctions imposed against Mugabe and
his cronies. Multilateral donors such as the World Bank are
sticking close to the same script, as its president, Robert
Zoellick, made clear in March in the run-up to the bank's spring
Still, some 2,800 miles northwest, one African country could
offer some hope and, more importantly, advice. In 2005, Liberia was
a devastated country emerging from a brutal civil conflict.
International donors were eager to help, but were fearful that the
transitional government would misuse -- or even pocket -- aid
money. (Such fears were not poorly founded: Then president Gyude
Bryant was later accused of stealing $1.3 million from the state.)
In response, officials within the U.S. State Department --
including the lead author of this article -- worked with the
country to create the Liberian Governance and Economic Management
Assistance Program (GEMAP).
Under GEMAP, revenue from Liberia's abundant diamonds and timber
resources, as well as from taxes from ship registries, were
collected at the Central Bank of Liberia, where they were overseen
by a new chief administrator, an international expert recommended
by the International Monetary Fund. Previously, these revenues had
been collected in multiple banks both within and outside Liberia
and had long been plagued by private- and public-sector "leakages"
in which government officials and industry magnates kept many of
the revenues for themselves.
GEMAP also launched reforms of Liberia's budget and expenditure
reporting, designed to make more information on government
contracts and tenders public. Internationally recruited accounting
advisors from reputable firms were placed in key ministries and
were required to cosign with Liberian officials on major
transactions. Privately funded "fellows" were recruited to advise
Encouraged by these new accountability mechanisms, the U.S.
government loosened its aid spigot, pouring more than $750 million
into the country, with all major socioeconomic indicators, notably
health, improving steadily ever since.
A Zimbabwean version of GEMAP would not only demonstrate a
commitment to break from the corruption and cronyism of the past --
it would provide the technical expertise and outside accountability
to do so. Under "ZEMAP," such abuses as Reserve Bank Governor
Gideon Gono's "borrowing" of $1 billion from private bank deposits
would not be possible; Zimbabwe's 71 ministers and deputy ministers
would be less able to leverage their new roles for personal
ZEMAP could begin by working only in MDC-run ministries:
Finance, Economic Planning, Education, and Labor. Targeted donor
assistance in these places could go a long way in helping
Zimbabwe's poor and struggling population -- all without the perils
of working through Mugabe. Given the program's potential impact,
finding political will also seems possible. The World Bank was
instrumental in developing Liberia's GEMAP, and it is likely to
support a similar approach for Zimbabwe.
That is not to say that a program of checks and balances on
revenue streams and government expenditures would be a quick fix.
Popular opinion might be one of the first obstacles. In Liberia,
critics of GEMAP argued that the program usurped the country's
sovereignty. Mugabe's government has long justified its existence
through anti-Western rhetoric, and making the MDC dependent on
Western donors could allow Zanu-PF to smear it as a puppet of the
West (as it has already begun to do). Nevertheless, an
international framework such as ZEMAP could provide donors an
avenue for reengagement with Zimbabwe and help make the country
less dependent upon Mugabe-era concessions to the likes of Russia
Ideally, Zimbabwe's imperfect power-sharing arrangement will be
a temporary solution to a profoundly unstable political and
humanitarian situation. While that situation is being resolved,
however, ZEMAP can help the unity government -- and everyday
Zimbabweans -- get back on their feet. And most importantly, it can
ensure that things don't get worse for a state now on the brink of
Woods is a senior associate fellow at the Heritage Foundation
and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa. Roger
Bate is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
First appeared in Foreign Policy
Slowly but surely, Zimbabwe is showing signs of life. A unity government that married the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF was finally created earlier this year. And though a bitter and crippling power struggle continues, often publicly, there is one profound difference that gives hope
Thomas M. Woods
Senior Associate Fellow in African Affairs
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