BUSINESS leaders have blamed government’s policy inconsistencies and haphazard implementation as the major cause of the country’s economic woes.
gn=justify>At a National Economic Consultative Forum meeting held this week, business leaders and company executives said policies were changed too often and implemented randomly.
“What we are doing now is haphazard and we need to change. We need policy consistency,” Pattison Sithole, the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Sugar Refinery, said.
Sithole is also president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
He said Zimbabwe was no longer competitive on the international market.
“We don’t have a God-given market so we need to brace ourselves as a nation to meet the competition in the international market. The key issue is to improve export competitiveness and competitiveness is not an overnight issue,” he said.
Sithole said there was need for a stable and predictable economic environment.
He also said frequent changes in foreign currency retention policies and the rejection of more than 90% of bids on the foreign currency auction was causing loss of business confidence.
Exporting companies are operating at between 30-40% of capacity because of escalating overheads and lack of imported inputs.
“Non-availability of offshore or external credit lines is also affecting business,” Sithole said.
“We need outward and friendly industrial relations,” he said.
Sithole said the recently introduced 5% concessional finance facility would benefit only a few companies as many had been excluded due to its threshold of only $1 trillion.
Delays in payment to exporters were also cited as causes of exporter viability problems.
Mike Bimha, the president of Employers Confederation of the Zimbabwe, said no significant progress had been made in terms of the National Productivity Centre.
He said they held meetings with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono, but nothing materialised.
“We cited the issue of funding as one of the obstacles in setting up the centre and he asked us to come up with a budget which we did,” Bimha said.
“He only agreed in principle to fund but up to now nothing has been done.”
Bimha said improvement in productivity was only emphasised in the business sector yet it should take place across all sectors of the economy.
He said Gono made reference to the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) several times but it was not delivering.
“TNF last held a meeting ten months ago,” he said.
“Can a serious body go for 10 months without holding a meeting?” he questioned.
Minister of Economic Development Rugare Gumbo said the solution to the country’s economic woes was value addition before exporting and industrialisation.
Participants at the meeting later protested against this.
“We cannot add value on products that are not there. Rather than concentrating on adding value let’s concentrate on increasing primary production,” one participant said.
He said there was a contradiction in policy and the situation on the ground.
“My view is that we tend to deal with symptoms without really attacking the causes of our problems,” Gumbo said.
“We are moving around in circles and year after year the problems keep on emerging. Let’s change our mindset,” the minister said.