AMID the economic turmoil and social strife, it is quite gratifying to note that there are some very progressive individuals and groups out there with very well meaning intentions. One of these groups is the Fish Producers Association of Zimbabwe which has suggested that government should impose a 10% surtax on all fish imports.
The money raised would then be put in a fund that will capitalise local fish farming. This is a very progressive proposal, not only in terms of food security, but it will help create jobs for the country with the sector envisaging that no less than 20 000 people will directly and indirectly benefit from fish farming once it is a fully fledged industry. Such initiatives are what some call low hanging fruits that our country should simply pluck and help move this country out of the current economic doldrums.
But we would like to hastily say that this, undoubtedly, will not be the first such good proposal. Many such proposals have in the past been proffered. We have so many funds that were created in the past such as the Aids fund – a very noble initiative to help curb the spread of HIV/Aids. The fund was, however, usurped somewhere along the line and monies diverted to God knows where.
According to the Auditor-General’s many past reports, there are so many funds under government’s purview whose administration has been highly questionable with most of these funds being constantly looted.
We would like to, therefore, ask how our fishing industry colleagues are going to secure their proposed Aquaculture Development Fund, as they want to call it? In these hard times such funds can easily also be low hanging fruits for the ever alert corrupt and greedy individuals in government.
Even government itself is known to be guilty of pilfering these funds to plug its own gaps. A case in point is the tobacco levy which, the last time we heard, had raised more than $20 million, but to date not a cent has been channelled towards the intended purpose of the fund.
The initiative was introduced by government in January 2015 as an afforestation levy on all tobacco farmers at a rate of 1,5% in the first year and 0,75% in subsequent years to finance regreening of our country following massive deforestation by the tobacco farmers.
Now the farmers want it scrapped because they say they have not seen the benefits of the fund.
We hope if ever the Aquaculture Development Fund comes to life it will not suffer the same fate as the tobacco levy.