Conducive business climate the key: ZNCC

THE Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) says it is advancing economic progress through the creation of a conducive climate for business as well as developing and enhancing business entrepreneurship. This week the Zimbabwe Independent Chief Business Reporter Paul Nyakazeya (PN) spoke to ZNCC president Trust Chikohora (TC) about how the chamber is identifying, promoting and servicing the interests and needs of business. Below are excerpts from the interview.

PN: What is the role of ZNCC?
TC: We are the voice of business. Our aim is to be a leader in business development in the national economy and a channel of communication between business and the various authorities in Zimbabwe. We provide a focus on business empowerment as the engine for economic growth and also encourage competitiveness in the market place through the promotion of organised business communities.
PN: How many members do you have to date?
TC: We have about 3 000 members.
PN: Why should one join ZNCC?
TC: The chamber represents the collective voice of its members, their views and concerns at a local, national and international level. Members make business contacts through our regular business networking luncheons, seminars and social events.
They develop a skilled and qualified workforce by taking advantage of a whole range of training activities, get advice on overseas markets and documentation and take part in trade missions and export/import courses.
PN: What significant developments have you made so far as a chamber and since you came became president in July?
TC: We made significant contributions in the mid-term fiscal policy. We also took part considerably in the PPPs (public-private partnerships) that are gathering steam right now. We have been marketing Zimbabwe as a preferred investment and tourist destination and promoting trade. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Zimbabwe Open University to encourage our members to further empower themselves through education. We are also working with junior chambers who are the future members of ZNCC.  We are also working on projects for woman to empower them as they play an important role in economic revival. We have also presented business request in for the forthcoming national budget.
PN: What were some of your submissions for the 2011 national budget?
TC: There are a lot, however, taxes have been a major issue. Government should review downwards the Pay As You Earn tax system with the maximum being around 30%. The Minister of Finance (Tendai Biti) should consider a two-tier approach whereby the general tariff rate on passenger motor vehicles shall be reduced to a flat rate of 15%.
We are suggesting that a lower tariff rate of 7,5% could be allowed where it can be proved that the vehicles were purchased on a vehicle finance scheme so as to encourage banks to offer vehicle financing to the public.
Banks must be encouraged to offer viable interest rates on deposits while at the same time the financial services sector, which stands accused of looting depositors through low interest rates on deposits and high lending rates, should begin to publish their rates.
In order to encourage the development of a money market, government should allow financial institutions to offer an investment paper that has a prescribed asset status.
The investment paper can then be used as collateral and also be traded in the secondary market thereby encouraging flow of credit as well as trading among various entities.
PN: To what extent does government adopt what you would have presented to them?
TC: They have accommodated much of what we have presented to them, especially in the latest mid-term fiscal policy. We are optimistic they will take on board much of what we have submitted for consideration in the next budget.
PN: What is the common problem among Zimbabwean companies and what has been slowing down economic revival and what can be done?
TC: Liquidity has been the major problem among all sectors. The absence of affordable loans and lines of credit has also negatively affected business. Liquidity and absence of lines of credit has been the major problem. It is important to engage multilateral lending institutions such as IMF and properly define policies such as the Indigenisation Act in a way that will not scare away investors. Most investors seem not to be confident with what they hear or read about regarding the Global Political Agreement’s outstanding issues and that it is collapsing has and is still affecting foreign direct investment in a big way.
PN: What do you think of the tax-free threshold?
TC: Government should increase the tax free threshold to US$300 from US$175 in order to improve disposable incomes among Zimbabwe’s struggling workers enduring the harsh effects of high taxes.
PN: Do you in any way work with other industry bodies or organisations?
TC: We collaborate with other national organisations with similar objectives, such as the chambers of commerce and trade organisations throughout the world.