Current reforms: Too little too late

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WHILE government’s current cocktail of reforms to improve the ease of doing business are most welcome, the reality is they are demonstrably inadequate to incentivise investors to bring in new capital to spur economic recovery.

It must be stated clearly from the beginning that authorities are now doing the right thing — after a lot of cajoling and pressure — to change the business climate and woo investors desperately needed to revive Zimbabwe’s imploding economy.

However, this might be a case of too little too late, as the measures do not go deep and wide enough to deal with structural issues and bottlenecks gripping the economy. In other words, the reforms are not in time to be effective and thus inadequate as a remedy, especially if the toxic indigenisation policy remains.

To improve the business environment, government is, among other things, overhauling the Companies Act and other laws, and pushing the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Amendment Bill to come up with a “true one-stop shop investment centre”.

It is also reviewing the State Procurement Amendment Bill to ensure efficiency in the public procurement system. There is also the Special Economic Zones Bill to promote exports, boost industrialisation and enhance skills and technology transfer. The Banking Amendment Bill will strengthen the regulatory framework.

There have also been labour reforms through the Labour Amendment Bill. While not exactly promising more changes on labour issues, government says it remains committed to take on board the concerns of workers and employers that could not be covered by the Labour Amendment Bill, rushed through parliament last month in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on termination of employment by notice.

The Mineral Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill will transform the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe into a fully-fledged mineral exploration corporation, while Pan-African University of Science and Technology will offer post-graduate programmes in mineral value-addition and beneficiation.

In addition, there is the Consumer Protection Bill, expected to promote consumer rights and fair business competition and marketing.

The National Competitiveness Commission Bill deals with the commission’s mandate to spearhead improvement of the country’s business competitiveness. It will replace the National Incomes and Pricing Commission, and the Bill will repeal the Act establishing that commission.

Further, the National Border Posts Authority is expected to facilitate the free movement of tourists, investors and goods, while the e-Transactions Bill will be introduced to govern and manage e-commerce. The Small and Medium Enterprises Bill will be designed to facilitate the sustained growth of the SMEs sector, whereas the Co-operative Societies Amendment Bill will incorporate the operations of savings and credit co-operative societies into the regulatory system.

All these are important interventions, but without fundamental and far-reaching political and economic reforms that overhaul how government works, nothing much will change.

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