ZIMBABWE – The United Nations Development Programme this week released its 2015 Human Development Report which ranked Zimbabwe as the country with the fastest average growth in human development and one with the most improved quality of life on the continent. The report came as a shock to most Western media pundits used to the constant barraging and maligning of Zimbabwe after failing to effect illegal regime change in the aftermath of the land reform programme.
But to some, the report was no shocker, but a mere vindication of the Government’s initiatives anchored on the 10 Point Plan characterised as the Zim-Asset Made Easy. It was no shocker to all who have been following the country’s trajectory before and after the inclusive Government.
Coincidently, the report came at a time when the ruling Zanu-PF had just had its national indaba where speakers including President Mugabe highlighted various initiatives undertaken by Government to improve the economic fortunes of the country long hamstrung by Western induced economic sanctions.
Although the impact of the initiatives is yet to cascade to ordinary citizens, there is no denying the fact that the country is on a recovery path. In his closing address at the Zanu-PF conference, President Mugabe predicted a new economic dispensation in 2016.
The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Cde Mike Bimha reinforced President Mugabe’s predictions when he said contrary to some negative perceptions from detractors, measures adopted by Government to resuscitate closed and dormant key manufacturing were bearing fruit.
Minister Bimha cited a number of achievements in the manufacturing sector which include the commissioning of a Chibuku plant in Bulawayo at a cost of $17 million, Nestle (Pvt) Ltd also invested $8 million in Egron Plant Upgrade, African Distillers Limited commissioned a new cider plant that improved output by 59 percent, Dairibord Zimbabwe Holdings set up a new sterilised milk plant valued at $4 million with a capacity to produce 24 million litres of sterilised milk per year, Olivine Industries also put in a total of $29 million in September this year and Bata Shoe Company adopted a new strategy of Associate Business Units expected to increase capacity utilisation from 30 percent to 85 percent.
Government through the Distressed Marginalised Areas Fund and the Zimbabwe Economic and Trade Revival Facilities continue to facilitate availability of financing to local companies at concessionary rates. There are other several measures that Government is undertaking that have surely improved the livelihoods of Zimbabwe, a development that has been aptly captured by the UNDP Human Development Report Index.
The 2015 Human Development Report (HDR) Work for Human Development examines the intrinsic relationship between work and human development. It defines work as a broader concept than jobs or employment, can be a means of contributing to the public good, reducing inequality, securing livelihoods and empowering individuals.
In its summarised Zimbabwe report, UNDP states that the “HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. A long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy.
Knowledge level is measured by mean years of education among the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a life-time by people aged 25 years and older and access to learning and knowledge by expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age, which is the total number of years of schooling a child of school-entry can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates stay the same throughout the child’s life.”
The report derives its credibility from the international standards used in assessing all the African countries, something that even those countries that are averse to Zimbabwe’s good standing cannot contest. The assessment measures standard of living by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates.
To ensure as much cross-country comparability as possible, the HDI is based primarily on international data from the United Nations Population Division the life expectancy data), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Institute for Statistics (the mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling data) and the World Bank (the GNI per capita data). The HDI values and ranks in this year’s report are not comparable to those in the past reports because of a number of revisions to the component indicators.
Surely, with the strides Zimbabwe has made in the education sector, who would dispute the UNDP report in as far long years in schooling is concerned. Almost every Zimbabwean is currently undertaking some kind of college or university education and it is no coincidence that the country has the highest literacy rate on the continent.
Between 1980 and 2014, Zimbabwe’s life expectancy at birth decreased by 1,9 years, mean years of schooling increased by 4,1 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4,4 years although the country’s GNI per capita decreased by about 30,2 percent between 1980 and 2014.
The rating by the UNDP is a clear vindication of the Government’s efforts in ensuring that the livelihoods of its citizenry are improved. University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Charity Manyeruke said the country’s top ranking by UNDP was not surprising as evidence on the ground confirms several positive developments taking place.
“There is a lot of housing construction going on not just in Harare but in some other towns and cities. That in itself is an indication of people getting decent accommodation, something that has incredibly improved their quality of life. Even the mere congestion experienced in town is also indicative of the disposable income that people have as previously owning a car was a preserve of a few,” said Prof Manyeruke.
On education, Prof Manyeruke said the mere fact that Zimbabwe is ranked the most literate country on the continent was indicative of the strides the Government has made in ensuring that education becomes a basic right to all citizens. She said a lot of Zimbabweans were furthering their education, a development that will consequently improve the quality of their lives.
Indeed, notwithstanding the possibility of a dry season, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Zimbabwe was on course for an economic turnaround because of its policies that are aimed at attaining the vision “Towards an Empowered Society and a Growing Economy,” espoused in Zim-Asset.
Minister Chinamasa said Government had to date attained achievements in areas such as infrastructure projects in energy generation and transmission, transport sector, water and sanitation, education and health facilities: financial sector stabilisation, re-engagement with the international financial community, improved cost of doing business and support for distressed companies.
As the nation enters a new year, hopes are high that the economic gains attained so far will be consolidated and cascade to the ordinary masses.
Analysts say if the fast-paced rate at which Zimbabwe shot to the apex of all African countries in terms of its improved life expectancy, long stay in schooling and the general quality of life is maintained then the country is poised for full economic recovery and stability.