Ease of doing business: ZIDA faces tough hurdles

Douglas Tawanda Munatsi

Government and private sector players have laid bare challenges bedevilling the economy in terms of ease of doing business and now expect the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) to redress the issues.

Since the advent of the 2nd Republic, Zimbabwe has accelerated implementation of Ease of Doing Business reforms, culminating in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking for the country improving from the previous position of 155 in 2019 to 140 in 2020, out of 190 countries that were included in the assessment.

However, though the country has improved in the Ease of Doing Business ranking, the reality on the ground is that there are still institutional, process and administrative bottlenecks that continue to scupper local business development and inflow of local and foreign direct investment, according to the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda.

Speaking at the Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee meeting on Ease of Business reforms on Wednesday, Dr Sibanda said the onus to redress issues brought forward by the business community was now on ZIDA working in collaboration with the Apex Agencies of Government.

“Addressing these challenges creates a Win-Win situation for Government, private sector and the citizenry. For the private sector, it makes corporates to be more profitable and viable, thereby promoting economic growth. For the Government, it creates a market and business facing behaviour,” said Dr Sibanda.

He added that as Zimbabwe looked to the diaspora to bring more capital and business into the country numerous bottlenecks inhibiting the ease of doing business needed to be removed.

Zimbabwe’s ease of doing business performance by indicators.

Speaking at the same event, Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee Chairperson and Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube also laid bare the ease of doing business challenges across ministries.

On the mining sector, Minister Ncube said while the target of US$12 billion contribution to the economy by the mining sector by 2023 was as appealing as it was achievable, there was still need to urgently pay attention to improving turn-around times, procedures, costs and regulations or legislation Governing doing business in this sector.

Touching on his own ministry and its Technical Working Group, in collaboration with other stakeholders, Minister Ncube said there was need to give attention to the implementation of the Collateral Registry, simplification of Payment of Taxes and creating a conducive environment for Small and Medium Enterprises to thrive.

“The tax regime in particular is burdensome and has to be streamlined so as not to inconvenience tax payers. It is in the same context that the amendments to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Act, the Manpower Development Act and Standards Development Act, meant to give effect to the collection of registration fees by ZIMRA has to be effected through an amendment to the Finance Act.”

Other challenging issues highlighted by Minister Ncube included the need for the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works to expedite implementation of outstanding work on reviewing Model Building By-Laws and the system for appraising building plans and inspecting construction work.

“Further to that, the creation of a One-Stop-Shop plan approval system should be speeded up.”

Minister Ncube also called on the Ministry of Energy to vigorously implement the reforms for quality electricity service to boost confidence thereby luring potential investors.

“Electricity is the lifeblood needed by industry and no serious investor would invest where there is erratic power supply,” he said.

The country’s trade development and promotion organisation, ZimTrade also highlighted several challenges faced by exporters and recommended that there be a “One-Stop-Shop (OSS) for the processing of export and import documentation (but, only after streamlining)”.

Director Operations, Similo Nkala also called for the removal of export permits on all horticultural products and non-strategic products as well as decentralisation of export permits for agricultural produce.

Business representative body, the Confederation of Zimbabwe industries pointed out four critical pillars of ease of doing business, stressing macroeconomic stability was the foundation on which to build competitiveness.

CZI expressed concern on the lack of macroeconomic stability as depicted by current high inflation levels as well as the ever widening premium of more than 63 percent which it said “promotes distortions, arbitrage and corruption”.

“The forex auction must be a spot market and must achieve the function of an efficient price discovery mechanism (Dutch auction rules should be adhered to),” CZI submitted.

Other areas of concern, which ZIDA will have to address as per CZI’s submissions include redressing issues of long and costly compliance levels as well as dealing with overlapping mandates for regulators.

On its part, ZIDA, through its chief executive officer Douglas Munatsi, acknowledged that “a lot of heavy lifting and commitment will be required across the board if we are to achieve our objective”. – Herald

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