AN industrialist has said a ruling party promise for two million jobs by 2018 is achievable, but said this was largely dependent on a massive reduction in the cost of labour.
This comes against the backdrop of massive company closures that have dogged Zimbabwe since the turn of the century and the recent sacking of thousands of workers on three months' notices.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Busisa Moyo, who is also the chief executive officer of United Refineries, said it was still possible to salvage the country's present situation and create the jobs promised by the ZANU-PF government under its economic blue-print, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).
He told a recent local government economic development forum that despite some negative views on the projections on job creation, he remained confident that it was achievable.
"Zim-Asset aims to create 2,2 million jobs by 2018 and this is very possible," said Moyo, adding: "In fact, it is not a big problem to create these jobs in three years and I know some people have a negative view about this. I believe it is achievable and that depends on what price your labour is. Your price of labour will determine the number of jobs you create."
Moyo said there were a number of foreign companies that were in constant touch with CZI, waiting to set up factories in the country, something he said would most likely lead to the realisation of Zim-Asset goals of creating over two million jobs.
"We had a discussion with an investor from India; he wanted to set up a call centre to employ 2 000 people. We have got the warehouses here in Bulawayo; his problem was the minimum wage in the ICT sector," said Moyo.
He said Zimbabwe had the highest minimum wage of US$246 compared with neighbouring countries.
The minimum wage in Botswana is at US$105, while in Mozambique it is at US$112.
In Zambia, the minimum wage is at US$132, while in Malawi it is at US$30 and US$125 in Tanzania.
Countries with lower minimum wages have lower unemployment rates.
For instance, Malawi has an unemployment rate of six percent, while Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate estimated at over 90 percent.
"There is a relationship between minimum wage and unemployment," explained Moyo.
"The higher the wage, the more unemployment you create. If you want to emerge as an economy, if you want to get out of poverty, you have to deal with your minimum wage, otherwise unemployment stays. You can decide how much unemployment you want through your minimum wage," he said.
The CZI chief said there was need for a paradigm shift in the way Zimbabwean companies conduct business in order to create more jobs.
"We (industry and commerce) cannot blame the government for what is happening. We are equally responsible. We have a part to play and so there is a paradigm shift that is needed," said Moyo.
He said while CZI was already working tirelessly to ensure that industrial capacity utilisation increased from the current levels of 34,3 percent to 65 percent by 2017, it was important for the country to do away with counterproductive policies that do not promote economic growth and employment creation.
He explained: "Our policies must match our strategies. If we are saying we have an unemployment problem, then we must have strategies that are pro-employment. Anything that is anti-employment, we must remove and replace it with something that is pro-employment."