Back reforms with legislation, says Prof Chakravarti

Professor Ashok Chakravarti

GOVERNMENT’s ongoing economic reform agenda has to be buttressed by legislative provisions that will enhance the ease of doing business and stimulate domestic production, economic advisor Professor Ashok Chakravarti has said.

Speaking at the 2019 pre-budget seminar in Bulawayo last Wednesday, he applauded the political will to reform the economy by the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa.

Prof Chakravarti said the legislature plays a key role in crafting and repealing laws that inhibit the ease of doing business in the country.

“The ease of doing business is very important. His Excellency the President has stated that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ but the reality is that if a businessman comes over here he is faced by laws, regulation, licenses, permits and fees, which can frustrate him,” he said.

“So, we are not really open for business because of our regulators. The ministries, they have been resisting the ease of doing business reforms for years.

“Honourable members, it is up to you now to bring these people to book, to bring these regulators and these ministries to book because they are resisting Government policy.”

Prof Chakravarti, who pledged to be brutal in his analysis for the sake of progress, challenged line ministries and committees to play ball and speed up doing business reforms.

“We need the executive and we need you also to interrogate these issues. My suggestion is that to make Zimbabwe really open for business, we need a guillotine approach. They have done this in Rwanda,” he said.

Prof Chakravarti said among other key complementary measures that the legislature needs was to fast track security of land tenure and property rights through a land audit. He said multiple farm ownership must be eliminated and efforts be made to tap into the diaspora.

“The difference between what I was saying three or four years ago and now is that the policy makers in the past did not bother to listen to practitioners like me. We are now in the Second Republic and we have a reformist leadership under President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Most importantly we have the political will to reform. I must say in the past, political will was not there.

“Not only do we have political will but we have a very powerful implementor who will make sure that things happen so today I’m going to be very brutally truthful with you,” said Prof Chakravarti.

He also said Zimbabwe lacks a coherent industrialisation strategy, which should speak to the productive needs of the economy and facilitate import substitution, bring price stability and contain inflation. Such a strategy, he said, should be crafted based on current, potential and future comparative advantage, which recognises that Zimbabwe can have strong human resource based industries such as ICT, health and education.

“Such industries should be supported through a comprehensive package of incentives including tax incentives, accelerated investment allowances, preferential Government procurement, and protection where appropriate” said Prof Chakravarti.

He said Zimbabwe has the natural and human resources to achieve these goals and all it needs is good macro-economic policies and management.