EDITORIAL COMMENT : Buying local vehicles will be good austerity

Governments are major consumers of goods in most economies and a decision compelling all State institutions to buy local products and buy foreign where substitution will be a supervening impossibility, has brought huge benefits to such economies. 

It is against this backdrop that we applaud the Government of Zimbabwe’s enforcement of its “Austerity for Prosperity” mantra by demanding that ministers and legislators use locally assembled vehicles as the “pain” should not spare anyone regardless of their standing in society.

It is our humble submission that the directive, which has been snubbed for a long time, should also affect local authorities, parastatals and other companies where Government has significant shareholding.

The new political dispensation is committed to the country’s economic turnaround and has to date introduced a number of strategies that should see Zimbabwe attaining middle income economy status by 2030.

With efforts underway to revive the local motor industry, it is heartening to note that the Government has taken the first step to support the initiative and the move, we believe is already overdue.

The decision, once implemented will significantly increase production levels at local motor assembling plants resulting in the creation of over 40 000 jobs directly and indirectly, contributing to the general growth of the industry and national economy at large.

This should also see the strengthening of other downstream sectors such as tyre manufacturing, automobile upholstery and a litany of service providers in the motor industry that are operating at low capacity due to depressed volumes.

By buying local, there will be reduced foreign currency demand that can intern be rerouted to critical procurements such as drugs, capital projects and just general reserves for rainy days.

The revival of the motor sector should not be a herculean task considering that there are other plants such as Willowvale Motor Industries (WMI), a partnership with Beijing Automobile International Corporation (BAIC) of China and also Quest Motors in Mutare.

These firms are capable of producing good double and single cabs, SUVs and trucks. We wonder why Zesa, Zinwa, TelOne or NetOne need to spend millions in foreign currency importing trucks while there are substitutes that can equally perform the same tasks.

Government just needs to demonstrate political will and all the departments will follow suit and there will be no need for directives.

If such a decision is implemented, the local motor industry will witness a boom in production capacity, which is what is currently needed desperately.

We also feel that such a directive should be backed by Government support for investment finance at affordable rates, export incentives and secure technology from foreign partners reinforced by bilateral agreements.

The motor industry in the country has historically proven to be a significant contributor towards employment creation, value addition as well as contributing towards the gross domestic product (GDP).

Over the years, the sector had, however, lost its dominance due to the influx of pre-owned vehicle imports resulting in a dip in capacity utilisation and loss of thousands of jobs in the sector.

Numerous spare parts distributors also emerged that were offering inferior quality spares, which worsened the situation.

It is not, however, too late to change such a sad narrative to a positive one that can turn the local motor industry into a huge foreign currency earner, also exporting into the region and beyond.

Political will, legislative support, resources and a paradigm shift on the importance of buying local, and having management that is quick to make decisions, is what our Government needs to focus on to revive this sector with massive potential to keep the country rolling.