THE resort town of Victoria Falls, still revelling from hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly, is set to be declared a special economic zone by President Robert Mugabe’s new administration, to attract investment in the tourist paradise of Matabeleland North.
Report by Gamma Mudarikiri
During the week-long UNWTO tourism jamboree, Victoria Falls, which co-hosted the event with neighbouring Livingstone, Zambia, attracted a lot of international attention with dignitaries from over 150 countries gracing the occasion.
Some of the delegates indicated investors from their countries would be interested in pouring money to the resort town, which boasts reliable water, courtesy of the ever-flowing Zambezi River, and a reliable road network which is a gateway to markets in the Greater Lakes region.
In an interview yesterday, secretary for Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Desire Sibanda said discussions to declare the resort town an economic zone had been going on for some time and were temporarily suspended after the dissolution of Cabinet following the July 31 elections which saw Mugabe romp to victory.
“We will be taking up the issue with the incoming minister and we are optimistic that the new government will support the proposal,” Sibanda said.
He said declaring Victoria Falls an economic zone would enable potential investors to be given preferential treatment, including exemption from tax on investment and free duty on imports during the implementation of the project, among other fringe benefits.
Sibanda said following the successful hosting of the UNWTO general assembly last month, the country was positioned to attract more investment with approvals projected to reach $6 billion by year end.
By June this year, the Zimbabwe Investment Authority approved investment projects worth $184 million, which is a decline from the $247 million realised in the same period last year, as investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude largely due to the country’s policy inconsistency.
Outgoing Finance minister Tendai Biti in his mid-term fiscal policy said domestic investment was primarily limited by the liquidity challenges prevailing in the economy while foreign direct investment was constrained by perceived risks associated with the elections, as well as the indigenisation and economic empowerment regulations, all of which saw investors adopting a cautionary wait-and-see attitude.
Sibanda, however, was optimistic that investments would rebound in the country in the second half of the year to meet the targets of the medium-term plan (MTP).
In the government’s economic blueprint, the MTP is targeting investment of 25% of the gross domestic product by 2015, which Sibanda said was still possible to achieve.