PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has embarked on a raft of reforms meant to plug corruption and make it easier to set up businesses in Zimbabwe, NewsDay can reveal.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe, who has presided over the spectacular collapse of a once vibrant and promising economy, has in the past year and a half created teams with support from the World Bank (WB) and a team of local economists led by University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Ashok Chakravarti.
Chakravarti confirmed to NewsDay that Mugabe’s office was leading the initiative known as Ease of Doing Business Reforms.
“The initiative came after a study done by the Industry ministy that found that Zimbabwe’s economic environment was over-regulated and had become a high-cost economy. This has resulted in uncompetitive exports, while the market is flooded by imports,” Chakravarti said.
“There are just too many regulations on business, licences and permits that make it expensive as well as restrict the ability of business to move forward.”
He said the initiative was known as the President’s 100-Day Action Plan.
“Under this, inter-ministerial working groups (IWGs) are supposed to report on progress every 100 days. Those that would have failed will get a red flag. We are in the second 100 days and we will continue until we get to the level of compliance that we want,” he said.
Chakravarti said Mugabe’s office leads the initiative, with technical and financial support from a local organisation known as the Strategic Economic Research Analysis Programme (Sera) and the WB.
“There are IWGs from starting a business, registration of property and building permits and cross-border trading, among others. We are at an advanced stage in amending the Companies Act, the Shop Licensing Act, as well as the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, with a view to making it easier to register property, acquire licences and plan approval for buildings,” the economist said.
Mugabe’s reforms come as Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa is shuttling between Harare and world capitals seeking support for Zimbabwe’s economic reform programme, as the President tries to get back into favour with global multilateral lending institutions after years of acrimony.
Chinamasa last week said the government was working on a plan to reduce its bloated wage bill from the current 83% of its annual budget to 50% by 2019.
Chakravarti said the government had realised that the many permits and licences, as well as a plethora of inspections, had created a haven for corruption and underhand dealings by small business owners, who find it almost impossible to comply.
“We want to make it easier to renew and comply. For example, Harare caters for over 55 000 shop owners, but only 8 000 have permits. The city is losing a lot of money, but now, if you apply, you can get a shop licence within an hour and we have set a 90-day target for building plan permits,” he said.
Last year, the Chinese government was said to have seconded economists to Mugabe’s office, as part of a deal to fund a turnaround in Zimbabwe.