SPECIAL Economic Zones (SEZ) have not yet been implemented due to lack of funding, as well as absence of a secretariat and offices to operate from, Parliament was told yesterday.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
SEZ chairperson Gideon Gono told members of the Kindness Paradza-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs that he together with Busisa Moyo were currently paying travelling expenses and accommodation costs for other members of the board.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his recent trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, invited investors to take advantage of the SEZs which he said were now operational.
SEZs, if implemented, are supposed to bring in investment of around $10 billion in three years as well as resolve the current cash crunch and high import bills, which are the main impediments of economic growth.
The SEZ board was given $593 000 by Treasury in December and Gono told MPs that the board decided to deposit the meagre amount in the bank and had not drawn any board fees from it, while airfares and refreshment expenses were borne by board members, or at the expense of Gono and Moyo.
In the 2018 budget SEZs were allocated a measly $1,4 million which does not show government seriousness in operationalising the initiative.
“We appreciate that government has no money and we (Gono and Moyo) have foregone entitlement to board fees or allowances for the first term,” Gono said.
“If my President (Mnangagwa) was aware of this, I know that he would not allow this to happen, and so the President is not aware of this.”
SEZ board member Ozias Hove works from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC). MPs were startled that Mnangagwa might not have the true picture of the plight of the SEZ board which has no resources to start the ball rolling.
Mazowe Central MP Tabitha Kanengoni (Zanu PF) said it did not help to “sugar-coat” in the new political dispensation.
“We need to call a spade a spade and you cannot continue funding the SEZ board using your own funds and vehicles because this project is for the country, and not a personal project and it creates problems when we now want to have a transition,” she said.
“Gono and Moyo are very patriotic, but as we go forward it is good for the Executive to give the correct picture to our President who recently went to Davos and gave the picture that something is happening when there is nothing on the ground.”
The SEZ board has already spent one of its three years in office without a chief executive officer or a secretariat as required by Section 22 of the SEZ Act. Gono said three names were submitted to the Executive by the board.
Gono emphasised that if successfully implemented, SEZ would turn around the fortunes of the country as they could ameliorate the liquidity crisis, promote exports and limit imports, bring in foreign direct investment and deal with the country’s debt crisis.
“We have done everything necessary to ensure we approve investment in excess of $1,2 billion (Ziscosteel) and it is going to change the face of this country, and we have piles of investment applications,” Gono said, adding that SEZs should be opened up in all areas of the country and not limited to three designated areas of Sunway City in Ruwa, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Christopher Dube, a board member and Bulawayo town clerk, said in Bulawayo the SEZ board had already done surveys of idle industries and factories in areas such as Kelvin and Belmont, with a view of demarcating them as SEZ.
Gono told the committee that for SEZs to be successfully implemented, there was need for water, electricity and roads infrastructure,.
He said his board had identified use of idle industries as one big strategy to implementation of SEZs as that infrastructure would already be in place.
He said since the country was cash-strapped a dinner for captains of industry could be organised to raise funds to support the SEZ budget through donations, but legally it was not permissible.