Harare offers free hand to investors

In an interview at the weekend, Tsvangirai said his unity government would overhaul investment regulations and policies, and a prospectus of investment opportunities would be released as part of the government’s 100-day action plan expected to be discussed by the cabinet tomorrow.

The plan also lays the framework of the government’s economic revival programme and commits ministries to specific actions and targets to make the country work again. He said his government wanted to promote a “ win-win” partnership with the private sector and the state’s role would be restricted to facilitating investment and allowing the private sector to operate without interference.

South African companies were particularly welcome, he said, and he listed telecommunications, tourism, mining, agriculture and manufacturing as some of the key sectors requiring urgent investment.

Pleading for more western support through investment and aid, Tsvangirai said the continued imposition of sanctions against Harare was sending the wrong signals and holding the three-month-old unity government to “ransom” in its hour of need.

Zimbabwe, he said, was desperate for investment to deal with rampant unemployment, to repair and rehabilitate infrastructure and improve food production.

The UK at the weekend said it welcomed the early progress made by the unity government, but noted that Zimbabwe was still in need of a great deal of reform.

Junior foreign minister Mark Malloch-Brown, who met Tsvangirai for the first time on the sidelines of the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma, said London would maintain a close dialogue with the fledgling government in Harare but did not promise any financial assistance.

Western governments say they want the rule of law restored, charges withdrawn against political detainees, and are also concerned about the continued invasion of commercial farms and the unilateral appointment of officials, which Tsvangirai said had been resolved.

“We think we should be rewarded for what we have achieved already. I do not think it is fair to hold us to ransom through such misgivings because progress has been made,” Tsvangirai said.

Zimbabwe estimates that it needs about $8,3bn to kick- start the recovery process. But the response so far has been muted, with just over $400m raised in credit lines from African financial institutions, while the International Monetary Fund, which the country owes more than $130m in arrears, last week announced the partial resumption of technical assistance.

“We need investment in many areas, particularly rehabilitation and repair of broken infrastructure, telecommunications, mining, agriculture and tourism,” Tsvangirai said.

He said his government would explore various incentives to attract investors, for example allowing companies to build, own and operate key infrastructure such as roads, or promoting public and private sector partnerships such as contract agriculture production.

He admitted that investors were still sceptical about the success of the unity government, but said it was unfair to be judged on the basis of past policy mistakes.

“There is no going back,” he said. Business Day (SA)