16 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Major Policy Overhaul On the Cards - Chinamasa

LONG branded a pariah state because of "unworkable" economic policies, Zimbabwe is ready for a major shift in focus, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Wednesday.

The treasury chief told journalists on the side-lines of a conference on special economic zones that the gathering would produce a document that could change the country's policy trajectory.

"We want to follow the good examples set by Mauritius, India and China. Zimbabwe is ready for a policy change that could shift our development agenda if adopted by government," said Chinamasa.

"These discussions we are having here will result in a policy framework document. Although at the moment we are focusing on economic zones this is a microcosm of the economic agenda we want to pursue".

Chinamasa said Zimbabwe needed investment from all corners of the world.

"The major thrust of special economic zones is to run with speed along the path to industrialization.

"We want to attract investment, domestic and foreign and we are here to listen to what it is that, as a government, we need to do to respond positively and attract their capital, skills and technology," the finance minister said.

He said the conference would come up with a new policy framework that will answer to the needs of international investors.

"We need to look at the incentives that we are offering investors and the discussion going on here will produce a document that government will have a look at with a view to adopting."

There has been a thawing of relations between government and international multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund following a decade and half long antagonism over policy disputes.

Relations between President Robert Mugabe and the West turned sour at the turn of the century after the veteran ruler turned on white-owned farms in a programme aimed at correcting colonial imbalances in the distribution of land in the country.

Critics say the exercise turned Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa, into a basket case while also scaring investors concerned about property rights away from the country.

Investors have also pointed to a haphazard implementation of the 50-49% indigenisation law as reason for their wait and see attitude.

Chinamasa, meanwhile, said the new policy thrust would address the questions investors have posed.

"If government adopts what will come out of this conference then their (investors) questions will be answered and that means a new policy trajectory for the country.

"Such laws as the indigenisation law will be rationalized to answer to the concerns of the investors without washing away the aspirations of our people," he said.

He added: "We want to specialize in being wealthy rather than being poor and the wealthy countries you see today adopted industrialization rather than production of raw materials".

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