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German ambassador slams roadblocks

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GERMANY’S ambassador to Zimbabwe Thorsten Hutter yesterday said roadblocks were deterring foreign investors and that it was up to the government to put in place favourable conditions to ensure that restrictive measures imposed on the country by the European Union are removed.

by VENERANDA LANGA

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Hutter appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Kindness Paradza, to discuss Zimbabwe-Germany relations, sanctions imposed on the First Family and Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements and land issues that have caused squabbles with German investors.

“Your job as government is to say how do you attract investors because Zimbabwe is unique in that there are things that are good, but there are issues that may seem not good to investment, for example, roadblocks and their effect on tourism,” he said.

“German companies want to invest here, but they are afraid. We want to redynamise re-engagement with Zimbabwe, but we never talk about sanctions, we call them measures. The point is that during the time of the government of national unity, this country experienced quite substantial growth rates and the measures were still in place, but now the growth rates are lower yet the measures have been reduced. We do not have sanctions, what we have is a travel ban.”

Hutter said despite the measures on Zimbabwe, business and investment was still possible, but said it was essential to first address differences in perceptions of German investors in Zimbabwe.

“German businesspeople want to know the direction the Zimbabwe government is taking, the policies and conditions to do business, and whether they will be able to access foreign currency, which is needed for them to do business,” he said.

The German ambassador said government had to seriously address the issue of arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Paris Club, whose creditors Germany is part of.

Germany suspended official development cooperation with Zimbabwe in 2002, and has underlined that the resumption of direct development co-operation is subject to the settlement of €465 million owed to the German Development Bank (Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW), by the Ministry of Finance, TelOne and the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

KfW is also owed €40 million by Ziscosteel under a deal guaranteed by the two governments. KfW has threatened to attach Zimbabwean properties in other countries in order to recover the €40 million debt.

“I have worked with German investors and their mindset is that they want to have as less as possible to do with governments. They know they have to pay taxes, but apart from that they want to do business. The more government interferes with their businesses, the less happy they are,” Hutter said.

“They look at the constraints of laws and their application. I have had cases in previous postings in other countries where different authorities apply the same law differently and it brings confusion, and that is what they are concerned about.”

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