HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsOpen letter to minister Mike Bimha

Open letter to minister Mike Bimha

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YOU won’t believe, Cde Minister, the extent to which stakeholders genuinely want to participate in this debate on industrial recovery and contribute their two cents’ worth to the country’s economic development. This immense interest naturally led to Part 3 of the Emerging Radical Views on Industrial Recovery series, which, sadly, will be the last in this series.

Opinion with Omen Muza

However, one wonders whether you as the policymakers actually pay attention to the vox populi when you craft your policies. For that reason, this instalment is structured as a letter to you Honourable Mike Bimha, as minister of Industry and Commerce.

It would be naïve, Sir, to assume that you actually trawl the Internet and read articles such as the Emerging Radical Views Series and pay attention the feedback they elicit, hence NewsDay has taken the liberty to compile some of the feedback for your convenience. As you consult stakeholders for short-term financing strategies for struggling industries and prepare your input for the national budget, some of the insights shared here might be of some use to you Sir.

Government should leverage public opinion more for policy making

First things first minister. This is what one reader had to say about Part 2 of this article, in the context of the role of the media in national development.

“Thumbs up to NewsDay. If this article was about democracy it would be a perfect example of participatory democracy. The problem in Zimbabwe is that the media, State media in particular, and the State are supposed to know everything and they adopt prescriptive approaches to national issues. Everybody, including those who lose elections, has a role to play in national development,” Gilbert Marebe said.

Another reader, going by the name Mukuruvambwa agrees and adds that “Government should create a window to get free consultancy from the public for example through such articles as this one and its feedback,’’ adding that the solution to the country’s industrial woes can’t rely on a single formula but on a matrix of factors as suggested by the various contributors below.

Imports kill local industry, period!

Minister, there appears to be a strong conviction that the need to restrict imports is not debatable given the ongoing decimation of local industry. “If we want jobs” says one Nyandoro. “We should limit imports. It’s a simple equation.”

Ziscosteel (New Zimbabwe Steel) for instance, is considered an anchor company which is very strategic in that reviving its productive capacity can spur considerable growth in sectors such as steel foundry and construction. It would be unfortunate therefore for such a company to be allowed to die. Additionally, a company like CAPS Holdings cannot be allowed to fold, because to start a similar company from scratch is a costly process, both in terms of money and time, as it takes time to secure the patents and licenses.

Tactical instead of absolute protection

As it stands Minister, it appears that we have no choice but to offer some sort of protection to our industry. However, a note of caution is sounded here. The protection must be tactical rather than absolute. Tactical protection entails the pursuit of a protection strategy that targets those industries where the country has an unquestionable comparative advantage and where we can produce cheaply under the circumstances. Absolute protection would definitely have unintended consequences such as product shortages and price hikes.

Reciprocal control mechanisms

As a country, one reader urges us to better understand the true meaning of protection since it is not just about implementing tariffs, quotas and embargoes, then we sit back and relax. He urges us to also talk about “reciprocal control mechanisms”, whereby government offers protection to industry which in return offers either job growth/preservation or price reduction.

Protection at consumers’ expense futile

Whatever we do minister, let’s not seek to protect local industries at the expanse of consumers because they will always find a way out. You know us Zimbabweans, we always make a plan. If our local products turn out to be too expensive therefore unaffordable, consumers will simply cross our borders and buy from South Africa or Botswana. That way our loss becomes a double whammy in terms of the opportunity cost of lost local sales and exportation of capital, which reduces the amount of money circulating in the local market.

Outright banning of certain products

Your ministry, it is argued, would compile such a list in liaison with a committee comprising of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and other consumer pressure groups. Local industry would however have to be warned that this should not be seen as a blank cheque for them to profiteer by increasing prices, something that would attract heavy fines.

l Feedback: omen.muza@gmail.com. Omen N. Muza writes in his personal capacity. You can view his LinkedIn profile at zw.linkedin.com/pub/omen-n-muza/30/641/3b8

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