25 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Govt Expands Ease of Doing Business Reforms

Buoyed by the achievements coming out of the initial phases of the Ease of Doing Business Reforms, Government has widened the scope of the reforms to cover various sectors such as tourism and enablers like local authorities, road freight and passenger transport and the export sectors.

Furthermore, in pursuit of the Sectoral Approach strategy, Government has expanded the reforms to cover the manufacturing, mining, agriculture and investment sectors.

"Reforming these areas will bring a lot of socio-economic benefits as the country's comparative and competitive advantages are anchored by these sectors," Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula said.

Dr Ndhlukula was making a presentation on Ease of Doing Business Reforms: Progress and Way Forward with a Special Focus on the Mining Sector at the Chamber of Mines' 78th Annual General Meeting and Conference in Victoria Falls last week.

It is now one year and eight months since the Ease of Doing Business Reforms commenced and remarkable progress has been made on both the legislative and administrative front for the first phase of the reforms.

Dr Ndhlukula said eight pieces of legislation were forwarded to Parliament during the 20 months of the reforms under the legislative milestones. The remaining pieces of legislation are at various stages of Parliamentary consideration and it is hoped that by the end of this month these would also have been passed by Parliament.

Furthermore, thirteen statutory instruments were also identified for amendment, of these 11 have been amended and gazetted, only two are still outstanding, according to Dr Ndhlukula.

On administrative milestones, Dr Ndhlukula said a lot of administrative procedures, timelines and costs have been reviewed and streamlined to facilitate the Ease of Doing Business.

Some of the achievements include dealing with construction permits and registering property. "Zimbabwe made dealing with construction permits faster by streamlining the building plan approval process. The One-Stop- Shop for plan approval is now operational at the City of Harare; on Construction Permits the days have been reduced from 448 days to 120 days within the City of Harare; property registration now takes 14 days from the previous 36 days; and these reforms will be decentralised to other local authorities," said Dr Ndhlukula.

A research on the manufacturing sector's regulatory environment revealed that some regulations were out-dated and non-functional in the current environment, for instance, the Export Credit Reinsurance Act of 1965.

Some regulations were no longer necessary because the institutions under which they fell are no longer functional such as the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Commission of 1942, 1983 and the Zimbabwe Development Corporation whose functions have been taken over by Industrial Development Corporation andurban councils

Too many regulators for the same type of service, for instance, licences for professionals such as pharmacists, dentists and nurses which are issued by the same authority.

Dr Ndhlukula said evidence had shown that the agricultural sector is one of the highly regulated sectors that needed to be subjected to the Ease of Doing Business reforms if it is to fully realise optimum productivity levels as the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy.

"The justification for reforms in this sector is based on the following information: some laws are too old, some dating back as far as 1914, 1921, 1955, 1963.

"The reforms will determine whether the laws are still necessary and relevant to the current situation. "There are lots of duplications and therefore streamlining and standardisation of laws and regulations is necessary within the agricultural value chain. "There is also a lot of overlapping of laws in other Ministries and Agencies; some charges are prohibitive and others are no longer relevant.

The sector is over-regulated; and there is also need for harmonisation of levies and regulations," said Dr Ndhlukula. Under the investment area said however, the investment environment is not very conducive to attraction of investment as the sector is fragmented with various Government Investment related Departments/Agencies' systems, procedures, legislation and operations not being harmonised.

This will no doubt frustrate prospective investors considering that other countries such as Rwanda have "One Stop Shop" for Investors and these can be registered within a day.

"This is in addition to the collaborative efforts being done by the Government and World Bank to strengthen the process of crafting a National Investment Policy and coming up with a broad National Investment Road Map," he said.

Commenting on the mining sector Dr Ndhlukula said it was critical that the sector had a regulatory environment which ensures that it contributes maximum value to the country and communities.

Currently the mining sector is governed by an antiquated Mines and Minerals Act dating back to 1961. Efforts to come up with a new regulatory environment have been going on since 2007, however, the success of these reforms should be heavily underpinned by the successful review of the Mines & Minerals Act (1961), according to the Deputy Chief Secretary.

The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill has provisions which are in synch with Government's thrust of improving productivity, value addition and beneficiation in the mining sector such as: "Use it or Lose it" principle to prevent hoarding of mining claims and establishment of mining cadastre to ensure full information of claims is available for both operations and planning purposes.

"It also includes emphasis of value-addition and beneficiation of minerals. "Value addition and beneficiation will allow the country to gain from the export of its minerals as well as industrialisation and more job creation in the mining sector," said Dr Ndhlukula.

"It is Government's belief that the reforms will also curb resource leakages and corruption which is also rampant in the private sector including mining."

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