By Joyce Mukucha
The business community from different sectors voiced concerns over persistent challenges they face in implementing the ease of doing reforms and pleaded with the Government to come up with best policy intervention options in the 2020-2021 Ease of Doing Business Reform Programme which was launched in Harare on the 5th of September 2019.
Concerning competitiveness of export business in the region, ZimTrade Export Development Manager, Mr Tatenda Marume said Zimbabwe’s the figures were not encouraging and there was a huge gap due to the fact that most of the exported products were more expensive as compared with other goods from other countries.
Pharmaceutical sector survey results showed that Zimbabwe is at least 50 percent more expensive with the engineering sector ranging fro 37 to 70 percent more expensive. Inconsistencies of policies and laws were affecting the pharmaceutical sector in as much as Ease of Doing Business is concerned.
“From a market survey we did of Botswana in 2017, we got that Zimbabwean products are at least 15 percent more expensive than what you would get from our regional competitors. So the picture so far is not good and because of that this is the idea I’m going to be selling today. Because of that competitiveness gap, our situation is so sensitive so any extra delay or any extra cost no matter how small you think it is, will probably affect our exports to the point where they are going to be non-existent in the future,” said Marume.
Transport Operators Association Chairman Albert Bere indicated that the sector was still facing many challenges which threaten their very existence. He said it was the prayer of the transport industry for the Ease of Doing Business challenges to be resolved expeditiously.
There was need for government, he said, to harmonise the laws so that they speak to each other rather than conflicting. Bere emphasised that it should be clear to anyone in Zimbabwe including the Government on how payment are made.
“A lot of challenges are negatively impacting on the critical transport sector. These include problems to do with time, costs and inconsistencies, government rules and regulations and laws. For a transport company, you only make money when the wheels are turning but we lose a lot of time through a lot of processes, permits required when carrying certain products. “We don’t have problems with obtaining the permits but our problem is it takes anything between 5 and 14 days to acquire one and there is a requirement that we can only apply for the permit once you have already loaded the truck because details of the truck will be needed to be included on the permit. Also the Zimbabwe Regulatory Authority (ZIMRA) processes among other bodies delays us a lot, so there is no smooth passage at of entry,” he said.
The representative of Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe, Farai Mutambanengwe pointed out that his industry was facing a plethora of challenges which include lack of electricity, issues of foreign exchange market where he said the exchange rate was still unstable.
“There is a lot which still needs to be done to ensure that collaborative efforts are taken so as to make Vision 2030 a reality. We are encountering many challenges when operating; such as licence costs and labour laws. We, as SMEs, cannot afford much so there is need for us to be differentiated from bigger players in the industry. Government should provide an enabling environment in the ease of doing business. In this way, the sector can be able to attract and retain investment. Also when taxing, government needs to look for progressive ways as well as taking deliberate steps in building the economy
“Other sectors such as ours have been said to be encountering same challenges which include government agencies duplicating charges and permits among other challenges affecting the Ease of Doing Business,” Mutambanengwe said.
Responding to the challenges being faced by different industries, and launching the 2020-2021 Doing Business Reform Programme, Dr. Misheck Sibanda, the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) said government is geared at creating a conducive and supportive business environment and make Zimbabwe a competitive destination of choice for investors in line with the mantra “Zimbabwe is Open for Business”.
Sibanda said the presentations made highlighted that delays in issuance of certain requisite permits led to delays or cancellation of orders by suppliers and to customers. Such delays are contrary to the spirit and intent of improving the business environment.
“The attitude by other Government ministries in lacking urgency to resolve outstanding bottlenecks was 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 in the New Dispensation. “Colleagues, challenges being faced by the local business community and indeed which equally affect foreign investors require our divided attention.
“I challenge Heads of Ministries as technocrats who constitute and Governments’ Top Leadership, to take both collective and individual responsibility for the failures of Government. It is indeed individual Heads of Ministries’ responsibility to provide solutions to the challenges within your area of jurisdiction that stand in a way of business and consequently chasing away the much-needed foreign and domestic capital,” he said.
He urged the ministries to embark upon another phase of Doing Business Reforms implementation, to lead from the front in championing the change that is aspired by everyone in order to support existing businesses as well as attracting the much-needed domestic and foreign investment.
The private sector players were told that they were also stakeholders in this reform programme. If the country’s business operating environment remains hostile, he said they will be affected first as they bear the negative consequence yet they are expected to be the first on giving testimonies of an improved business-friendly environment in Zimbabwe.
Adopting international best practices and standards in doing business, guaranteeing investors in the repatriation of their profits, embracing institutional arrangements that time-bound, efficient and effective promotion and facilitation of investments were said to be some of the implementation policy that will ensure that a number of positive interventions is attained.