Operationalise the Special Economic Zones Authority

Operationalise the Special Economic Zones Authority
Published: 08 February 2018
The establishment of Special Economic Zones Authority following the promulgation of the Special Economic Zones Act in 2016 was greeted as a major milestone in the country's quest to attract investors and boost employment and exports and foreign currency generation.

Calls for Government to improve the business climate in the country to attract investors have been on everyone's lips in the past two years and the enactment of the Special Economic Zones law was roundly welcomed in all sectors.

Even in his inauguration speech, Mr Speaker Sir, President Mnangagwa cited Special Economic Zones as one measure adopted by Government that was set to lure investors given the various incentives offered. Mr Speaker Sir, the special economic zones (SEZs) can be an effective instrument to promote industrialisation if implemented properly in the right context, as shown in some of the emerging countries, particularly those in East Asia.

More and more countries have begun to implement this instrument for their industrialisation process, especially as a way of attracting foreign direct investment (FDIs) mostly in the manufacturing sector, creating jobs, generating exports and foreign exchanges, and so on.

So far, the results are mixed with some countries successful, including China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Jordan and Mauritius. What is, however, disappointing in a our case is that following the optimism that greeted the creation of the Special Economic Zones Authority, the body is yet to be fully operational despite the task that awaits it in contributing to the country's economic recovery and growth.

Mr Speaker Sir, the SEZA Board appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce this week and revealed the challenges it was facing eight months after appointment.

Mr Speaker Sir, what is puzzling is that they do not even know the ministry they fall under while the absence of a secretariat means the day to day business of the organisation is at a standstill.

Mr Speaker Sir, with the enthusiasm that investors have expressed to come to Zimbabwe, we would have expected all structures to be place, with a secretariat that is familiar with its duties ready to serve those making enquiries. A number of observers have over the years pointed out how we are good at crafting policies and establishing institutions but found wanting on implementation.

What is happening with SEZA is an apt example of that. President Mnangagwa has on a number of occasions and fora articulated how this organisation is expected to spearhead investment into the country. It means we have to match what we expect it to accomplish with resources to enable it do its work.

Mr Speaker Sir, Government has adopted a 100-day work plan and very soon the first 100 days will be over and Zimbabweans will be waiting to see what has been achieved in that period. It is undesirable in terms of good governance and accountability, Mr Speaker Sir, that Board members use their personal resources to fund their official duties. Something must be done urgently.

State institutions should remain just that and it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that they are adequately funded so that they carry out their activities. In the long term, Mr Speaker Sir, Government may consider merging SEZA with the Zimbabwe Investment Authority to save on resources. This may also avoid possible duplication or potential conflict between the two bodies.

The major focus at the moment is on creating an enabling environment that attracts investors and one way of doing that is to have fully functional institutions that assist would-be investors and ensure they find Zimbabwe an attractive investment destination.

Mr Speaker Sir, that Zimbabwe is open for business as enunciated by the President should not only be seen in word but in deed; that is why we call on Government to ensure that the SEZA is wholly constituted as envisaged in the parent Act so that it undertakes its responsibilities without impediments. The Board should not have excuses for failure it called upon to account for its tenure.

Turning to other issues, the observation by Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda that stringent requirements by banks for one to open an account were colonial could not have been better said. There have been calls for financial inclusion so that people transact using various formal online platforms given the cash shortages in the country.

However, this may remain a pipedream given the conditions required by financial institutions to open an account. Mr Speaker Sir, the requirements by some banks are not to facilitate entry of more people into the mainstream financial system but rather to frustrate them.

Just like what was witnessed during the voter registration blitz, the demand for one to produce proof of residence or signed affidavits has made it difficult for people to open accounts. Beside that, there is also the requirement for one to submit passport photos, identity documents among others, making it a costly venture for one to open an account.

Legislators wanting to open accounts for Constituency Development Funds are having a torrid time in opening these and it's one of the reasons the disbursement of the money has been slow. One can only imagine what an ordinary person in the high density suburbs or village goes through given these measures.

We conclude this week's edition by commending the initiatives being put in place by Government to attract foreign direct investment and hope the interest shown by the investors that have visited the country since the beginning of the year will be followed through so that the benefits are felt across the board.
- herald
Tags: SEZ,


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