The Zimbabwe government on Thursday lamented the slow pace of economic reforms and called for a collaborative approach to fast-track the reforms to improve the country’s business environment.
Top officials in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) acknowledged that little progress had been made to date in improving Zimbabwe’s business culture and environment since the reforms began in 2015.
The country was ranked 155 out of 190 on the World Bank’s “ease of doing business index.”
Zimbabwe’s neighbors, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, were ranked 82, 86 and 87 respectively.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, running on the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra, wants to speed up reforms to create a more welcoming and conducive environment for investment to flow in and flourish.
Chief secretary in the OPC, Misheck Sibanda, said government ministries were slackening the pace of the reforms through non-implementation of agreed reforms, state news agency New Ziana reported on Thursday.
“There is still a lot more to be accomplished to clear the hurdles that businesses encounter in the operating environment,” Sibanda told the launch of the country’s 2020-2021 edition of the ease of doing business reform program.
At the event, attended by heads of ministries, 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,” he said.”This… is totally unacceptable.”
Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Martin Rushwaya said fundamental problems that make it unviable for businesses to operate sustainably remain 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 yardstick for successfully executed reform. We are not yet there.”
Business sector representatives at the meeting criticized the government for what are described as opaque systems that made it expensive for businesses to operate.
From multiple licenses and permits required for simple processes to delays at borders, business leaders said the government must address the challenges presented by many of its agencies that appear more interested in charging fees than in adding value to the business process.
“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 manager for export development Tatenda Marume.
David Irvines, chief executive of Irvine’s, complained that his company, the country’s biggest chicken and egg producer, had to obtain eight different permits from various government agencies to import one particular chicken feed.
Besides charging fees, some of the government agencies, he said, do not even understand how the businesses they are levying function.
“In fact, I do not know what they are supposed to be doing besides collecting fees,” he said to applause from other delegates.
Some of the government agencies that came under criticism from the delegates include the Environmental Management Agency, Agricultural Marketing Authority, National Biotechnology Authority and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
“We are over-regulated,” said Albert Bere, a transport sector representative.
Sibanda, the OPC chief secretary, said wide-ranging reforms are in the offing and that the government remains committed to continuing dialogue with the private sector to address all issues chocking businesses.
“Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind in this race by the global community of nations,” he said. “The government will up its tempo in order to catch up with other competitive economies in the region.” Enditem