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Industry rejects govt plans for pricing body

Shame Makoshori

CAPTAINS of industry this week rejected plans by government to set up a permanent National Incomes and Pricing Commission, saying the body would become r

edundant once the country’s economy turned around.

The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) argued in submissions on the National Incomes and Pricing Bill that a permanent commission would only be relevant in a turbulent economic environment.

It would however be irrelevant once prices stabilised, they said.

Industrialists said the Bill should clearly state the tenure of the commission to avoid wasting public resources once the economy stabilised.

The submissions were presented to the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade in Harare on Tuesday.

If enacted, the commission would develop pricing models for goods and services produced in Zimbabwe with a view to balancing the viability of producers, incomes and consumers’ needs.

However, industrialists maintained that instead of establishing another institution, government should strengthen existing institutions to deal with prices and incomes.

“We suggest that we strengthen the price stabilisation committee than set up a commission because once the problems are over it becomes irrelevant,” said the ZNCC.

“This Bill is counterproductive to foreign investment. Do we really think foreign investors would be comfortable with price controls?” the ZNCC asked.

Industry was also unhappy with current excessive government intervention in the pricing of goods and services.

They proposed that if government went ahead with establishment of the commission, then it should be autonomous, with powers to review prices in response to fluctuations in production costs to maintain viable operations.

CZI chief executive officer Joseph Malaba said companies were unhappy with penalties imposed under Section 26 of the bill for the obstruction of authorised officials entering and inspecting companies, or delays to produce company information as demanded by those officials.

The Bill is proposing imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years for people violating that section of the proposed Act.

Malaba said this was “tantamount to managing businesses through the courts”.

Industry also said the Bill violated company law by empowering the arrest of board members or management for offences committed by companies as legal entities.

Small-scale entrepreneur Paddington Japajapa fired a broadside at government for failing to curtail rampant price increments that have characterised the market in the past 12 months.

“Three days without food when government is saying it is looking after its people. Is that looking after your people when they are going for three days without food?” he asked.

The commission comes amid public outcry that businesses were ripping them off.

Business argues that regular price increments were important to keep producing because input costs continued to escalate due to inflation, foreign currency shortages and fuel shortages, among other problems.

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