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“We are not yet there” – OPC on reforms


Harare (New Ziana) – The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) on Thursday called for a collaborative approach to fast track implementation of reforms to improve the country’s business environment and attitudes to be able to compete with neighbouring countries for fresh foreign investment.

Top OPC officials acknowledged little progress had been made to date
in smoothening Zimbabwe’s business culture and environment since the
reforms began in 2015, with the country still ranked lowly on position
number 155 out of a possible 190 on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing
Business” rankings.

The country’s neighbours South Africa, Botswana and Zambia are ranked
82, 86 and 87 respectively.

But President Emmerson Mnangagwa’ administration, running on the
“Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra, wants this changed and plans
to speed up the reforms to create a more welcoming and conducive
environment for investment to flow in and flourish.

Chief Secretary in the OPC, Dr Misheck Sibanda said government ministries were slackening the pace of the reforms through non-implementation of agreed reforms.

“There is nothing to celebrate yet, as there is still a lot more to be
accomplished to clear the hurdles that businesses encounter in the
operating environment,” he said at the launch of the 2020-2021 edition
of the ease of doing business reform programme.

At the event, attended by heads of ministries, Dr Sibanda said: “The
attitude by some government ministries in lacking urgency to resolve
outstanding bottlenecks is regrettable to say the least.”

“Acting lackadaisically when dealing with economic reforms of national
interest is a complete departure from the agreed government investment
drive. This, I must say, is totally unacceptable under the new
dispensation,” he said.

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Martin Rushwaya said fundamental problems making it unviable for businesses to operate sustainably remained to be addressed.

“There has not been any dramatic change through the already executed
reforms. The business operating environment has remained toxic to the
operator and foreign investor,” he said.

“The ease with which businesses transact in the Zimbabwean economic
environment is the yard stick for successfully executed reform. We are
not yet there.”

The officials said this as business sector representatives came hard
on government for its opaque systems that made it expensive for
businesses to operate and for products produced in the country to
compete on the export market.

From multi-licenses and permits required for simple processes to
delays at the borders, business leaders said government must address
challenges presented by many of its agencies which appeared more
interested in charging fees than in adding value to the business

“Zimbabwe’s fast moving consumer goods are at least 15 percent more
expensive when compared with those in the region because of such
issues,” said ZimTrade’s manager for export development, Tatenda

The chief executive of Irvines, David Irvines said his company,
the country’s biggest chicken and egg producer, was being charged
eight different permits by various government agencies to import
one particular chicken feed.

Besides, charging fees, some of the government agencies, he said, did
not even understand how the businesses they were levying functioned.

“In fact, I do not know what they are supposed to be doing besides
collecting fees,” he said, with other delegates clapping in agreement.

The Environmental Management Agency, Agricultural Marketing Authority,
National Biotechnology Authority, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority are some
of the agencies that came under criticism.

“We are over-regulated,” said transport sector representative, Albert Bere.

Promising that a wide range of cross sector reforms were in the
offing, Dr Sibanda committed to continuing the dialogue between
government and the private sector until all the issues chocking
business were addressed.

“Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind in this race by the global
community of nations,” he said.

“During this coming phase of reform, the government will up its tempo
in order to catch up with other competitive economies in the region.”
New Ziana

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