Resources nationalism: The other side – John Robertson

via Resources nationalism: The other side – DailyNews Live by John Robertson  14 DECEMBER 2013 

On reading the Daily News editorial on Wednesday, I was very concerned to see expressions of political acceptance of many highly-contentious points.

I would argue that serious misconceptions are keeping many unhelpful policies on our statute books and it is a source of some dismay to find that your paper is carrying editorials that repeat and apparently approve of highly questionable policies, even though they are clearly not working for the good of the nation.

“Policy accruals” imply empowerment advantages, but no evidence to prove the existence of any real benefits has ever been offered.

Instead, huge job losses have been experienced.

Compelling anyone to surrender assets of any kind is theft. Passing a law that makes it “legal” does not make it right.

Resource nationalism carries no automatic “moral rectitude” component.

For thousands of years, Zimbabweans have had all the rights needed to exploit the country’s mineral wealth and we still have these rights.

Only now that others have identified their value are we demanding that they respect our rights.

We should be running the mines, but if we lack the ability to even start them, we should be grateful for the jobs, incomes and tax revenues delivered by those who take on the risky investments.

Resource nationalism is not noble. It is shallow, dishonest and damaging to the development process.

Agrarian reform also lacked nobility, specially as it failed to deliver the promised advantages.

Profound differences between those who work for what they want and those who claim their authority empowers them to take what they want will never produce an egalitarian spread of benefits. Zimbabwe is now a backward, impoverished society because of these dishonest claims.

Community share schemes have not yielded useful dividend cheques because the indigenisation process has halted the development and eroded company profitability.

The process is destructive for everyone, original shareholders included.

People waiting for a process to deliver something for nothing are always going to be disappointed.

They should express their anger at those who promised riches and empowerment, not at those whose companies were crippled by a process that arrested investment and destroyed initiative.

The indigenisation thrust is the problem.

It promises, but cannot deliver, a short cut to incomes that will be extracted from non-indigenous people.

These incomes must inevitably evaporate because the demands imposed by indigenisation will kill them. So this promised transfer of wealth cannot happen.

Real empowerment comes from a community’s acquisition of the skills needed to generate good incomes and from the application of these skills in productive work.

Real empowerment cannot possibly come from the confiscation and redistribution of the assets of others, whoever they are.

This portrayal of foreigners squirrelling profits back to their countries of origin does not apply to pre-independence Zimbabwe.

The fact that the country became one of the most developed in the entire Third World was because the owners of the businesses reinvested most of their profits right here, in this country.

The dividends they paid were always a tiny fraction of the amounts they paid in wages, or salaries, or taxes, so the major beneficiaries were always the local people.

The restructuring of the empowerment policy should start with a restatement of the policy of wealth redistribution.

Wealth should be defined, not as money, but as the ability to make money.

In that definition, wealth therefore equates to ability.

How ability might be redistributed then becomes the subject of the empowerment process. The acquisition of ability is all about education and the use of knowledge in the workplace to gain experience and generate skills.

So another essential is employment. And every productive job in existence is created by the investment process.

Investors are attracted by acceptable policies. Indigenisation demands simply do not qualify.



  • comment-avatar

    Good to see you john finally calling a spade a spade. Jimmy girdlestone would be proud. Tony has to be more forthright like Eddie cross when he pens rather mediocre bland reports in the London financial times. You all know that 2014 is the new old 2008. Just spell it out. 2018 erections are being brought forward every day. Chinamasa has ziltch from china for budget

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    May day oh may day, from auto pilot to fatal crash/s. What happened to the Essar/New Zimbabwe Steel deal when the +$350 million debt interest balloons. Dementia dictated a smaller investor not Arcelor Mittal which we cannot control, but alas which way is the dice under the coke bottle tops, iron ore resources, ahh we sold a valuable asset for less than a billion dollars when its over US$20 billion, and now all our learned profs. as silent as graves when pres, powers were on full swing leading to sham July 31; ohh concourt decisions are supposed to be respected- uhh my God at least I cant emulate to be a student of a const/law prof, we went into these sham elections with our eyes open like dry kapenta, may day oh may day!!!!

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    dayford 8 years ago

    John John John…what you forget is these ministers all have 2 ears. One for taking in your good advice and one for chucking it away. Zimbabwe is in a mess..thanks to Zanu PF

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    Mavhu Mavhu 8 years ago

    John Robertson, nomater the the colour of skin, you are spot on. Empowerment should be viewed as having the ability to create wealth for oneself. Instead of making us wish to sieze wealth from foreigners, the people’s government should make it easy for the indegineous people to open businesses. Make it easy for the indegeneous people to claim mines and own mining licences. The Chiadzwa people could have been greatly empowered if they had been allowed to mine diamonds, the alluvial diamonds. However the truth is ZANU(PF) DOES NOT wish to eradicate poverty amoung the indegineous people. Otherwise their campaign gimmicks of giving people 5kg packets of maize seed and fertilizer will stop working.

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    Coenraad Brand 8 years ago

    Thanks John, for such straightforward clarity.

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    Angela Wigmore 8 years ago

    Mavhu Mavhu: you are a wise man. You have hit the nail on the head – a very profound statement.