Zimbabwe: AfDB Urges Reform Accelaration

AFRICAN Development Bank (AfDB) country representative Damoni Kitabire has urged government to expedite the implementation of broad-based economic reforms as a catalyst to foreign investment and macro-economic stability.

The southern African nation is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, with the economy expected to shrink further on the back of crippling drought where almost eight million Zimbabweans are facing hunger.

Kitabire made the remarks at the signing of a US$10,5 million grant aimed at capacitating Parliament, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and the Auditor-General's Office.

"With this support, we urge the government to continue its reform efforts of the macro economy and in particular efforts aimed at attracting adequate foreign exchange necessary for full restoration of macroeconomic stability and building of general infrastructure in the country," Kitabire said.

Upon taking over from the late former president Robert Mugabe in 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa committed to implementing far-reaching economic and political reforms.

However, the reform process has moved at snail's pace, according to the international community which is pushing for radical changes that include rationalisation of the public service among other critical reforms.

The reform agenda is seen as the only way out for Mnangagwa's government, which is in desperate need of fresh funding.Zimbabwe is currently undergoing the International Monetary Fund Staff-Monitored Programme, designed to support government's reform agenda.

It is also intended to assist the authorities in building a track record of implementation of a coherent set of economic and social policies that can facilitate a return to macro-economic stability and assist in re-engagement with the international community. Zimbabwe is also enduring a second period of hyperinflation in a decade, with the IMF pegging the general increase in prices over 300%.

Other challenges like chronic power shortages, forex deficit and currency volatility have colluded in crippling the economy.Kitabire said the bank will also offer support for economic revival.

"We are aware that tax administration and related reforms are at the core of this recovery and as a bank we have been and will continue to support the initiatives in this effort. As your bank we will stand with you and support you as you endeavour to revive the economy with progressive market-oriented policies," Kitabire said.

Finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, said the grant will go a long way in improving parliament's oversight role and tax revenue collection."I want to appreciate the African Development Bank for the continued support we continue to receive from them. The bank has been supporting the government of Zimbabwe on various programmes. The expected outcome is tax compliance, improved capacity of oversight role of parliament. There will be reduced time in paying tax," Ncube said.

Zimra Commissioner-General Faith Mazani, whose organisation will get the huge chunk to the tune of US$8 million, pledged to put the fund to good use, through implementation of a new tax and revenue management system.

"The fund will boost the implementation of new tax and revenue management systems and ICT systems for revenue mobilisation. The new system is being used to replace the old tax management system. This seeks to modernise its ICT systems and automate revenue collection. The new system will equip Zimra to mobilise revenue for government. It will provide the capacity to interface with other systems like Ascuda system to eliminate inefficiencies. The funding will not be put to waste but will be well managed and not put to waste," Mazani said.

Acting clerk of Parliament Helen Dingane said the grant is set to strengthen the oversight role of legislature."We are privileged to be beneficiaries of this programme. This is not the first time we have received funding from AfDB. Thus this will help in strengthening the role of parliament in its oversight role. It will help institutionalise training and capacity building in parly. We are happy that a number of committees will benefit from this fund," Dingane said.

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