IT’S been about 10 months now since industries raised concern about the impact that Covid-19 has had on their operations since its outbreak at the end of 2019.
Some governments have been decisive in their interventions to save businesses because any right thinking administration knows that for people to survive now and in the future, they need stable companies to produce food and export merchandise to earn foreign currency for their economies. This is the money that is then used to import drugs and food; pay civil servants and fund the trips that public sector globetrotters make in diplomacy and other crosscountry engagements.
Industries are the heartthrob of any country. But the procrastination that the government makes when it comes to solving real problems confronting these lifesaving corporations is disturbing. It is quick to swing around and hike fees and taxes. It is decisive in imposing hostile laws and policies that punish investors and destroy companies. But it moves shockingly slowly to intervene when it becomes clear that industries are up in smoke and crying out for help, especially after bad policies destroyed banks and other sources of capital.
It is generally understood this administration is so broke it cannot shoulder such huge and unbudgeted bailouts.
The tourism sector, which has received the most brutal blows out of this pandemic, has been earmarked to receive $500 million but it is highly unlikely this money will materialise. In the meantime, companies in the sector are crumbling, with 0% patronage but with huge costs to pay. But knowing the state of government finances, these industries never really asked for money. There are many ways a broke government could help industries. It can offer tax exemption, tax holidays and even forgo some of the multiple taxes that businesses pay in Zimbabwe. It can temporarily review many needless fees and penalties that institutions like EMA and ZIMRA invoke to punish defaulters in this difficult era and review mining royalties.
In the case of tourism which employs 100 000 people the need for a bail out is urgent and where money is not available other ways of helping should be figured out. The tourism industry, for example, takes care of the 80 000 or so elephants that have bred beyond the environment’s carrying capacities. Elephants, and many other animals are in high demand worldwide as trophies and in some cases alive, even during the pandemic. Instead of leaving them to be butchered by mindless poachers and thrown for feasts at political party rallies, we could allocate a herd for each of the tourism players to utilise the money to save businesses, and the country.
Many governments have freely bailed out their companies. Tourism companies are owed a lot. The sheer amounts they throw into conservation annually must now be recognised. The advantage is that by so doing we save the environment and save jobs. We also give these tourism players the zest to fund future conservation programmes because another dimension of the importance of wildlife will have been opened. This is one example where a resource can be used to save one industry. But several non-monetary examples are there to extend liquidity to companies without stretching a government that is struggling already.