Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT is coming up with a cocktail of measures to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country, among them amending the Companies Act and other relevant investment regulations to align them with the best business practices, a senior Government official has said.
After realising that some investors were being frustrated by long and protracted procedures in their quest to invest in Zimbabwe, Government also intends to reduce “the starting of a business period” in line with the 10-Point Plan for Economic Growth outlined by President Mugabe in his recent State of the Nation Address.
With immediate effect, investors who are in the process of making business inquiries and those to come, will be handled by an Inter-Agency Platform coordinated by the Office of the President and Cabinet to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
In a speech read on his behalf by his deputy Mr Ray Ndhlukula at a workshop in Harare on Creating a Conducive Investment Climate last Friday, Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, said this approach would entail the turnaround time on approving investment.
The period for approving investment would be reduced from the usual 21 days to 24 hours in respect of company registration.
“Where licences are a prerequisite for commencement of operations, provisional licences are to be issued upfront pending finalisation of other related processes. Where under normal circumstances, set interval committees or board meetings would have been convened to consider investment applications, under this approach extra-ordinary meetings shall be convened to attend to pertinent issues,” Dr Sibanda said.
He said parallel to the process of finalisation of the Rapid Results Approach on Ease of Doing Business Reforms, Government would implement the Cabinet decision of April 14 this year approving the transformation of the National Income and Pricing Commission into a National Competitiveness Commission (NCC).
Dr Sibanda said the NCC would continuously monitor the cost drivers in the economy as well as address the current and emerging cost challenges that had seen local products being uncompetitive locally, regionally and internationally.
The commission would also review new business regulations and their impact on the cost of doing business and competitiveness.
Dr Sibanda called on permanent secretaries and heads of State enterprises and parastatals to have total buy in and support the new Rapid Results Initiative and structures being initiated.
President Mugabe recently gave Government a directive to improve the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe by December 13 this year after numerous reports of businesspeople who were frustrated by bureaucracy and some officials who demanded commissions to link up investors with high ranking Government officials.
Government ministries and agencies responsible for executing the Ease of Doing Business Agenda, have set goals among them to reduce the starting a business 0period from the current 90 days to 30 days by December 21 this year.
The technical teams have also set goals of reducing the time of obtaining construction permits from 448 days to 120 by December, 21 this year, reduce the number of days required for registering property from 36 days to 14 days by December 21 and to amend the Companies Act and any other relevant legislation to be aligned to best business practices.
“I am aware that the two and half days have been characterised by intense hard work by the five Technical Working Groups, essentially trying to institutionalise the Rapid Results Approach in the Ease of Doing Business environment.
“I recognise that the Technical Working Groups after considerable effort and consultation amongst the team members, have come up with Rapid Results Approach compliant goals aimed at reviewing the pricing models and accompanying policy interventions,” Dr Sibanda said.
He said there was need for further interrogation of the goals that have been set up to give impetus and sense of urgency to depart from the comfort and business as usual mentality, which characterised the current processes.
The Technical Working Groups also aim to improve the time and cost efficiency of contract enforcements by 75 percent and 10 percent respectively as well as put in place legal frameworks and structures that will reduce the time within which any insolvency issues are resolved from 3,3 years to one year by December 21 this year.
They also aim to reduce the cost to export and import by 30 percent and reduce time taken to pay taxes from 242 hours to 160 hours.
The World Bank and USAID-Sera sponsored the workshop and technical assistance on the Rapid Results Approach to Ease of Doing Business reform initiative.
Participants were drawn from key Government ministries and agencies responsible for executing the Ease of Doing Business Agenda.
This comes as the Office of the President and Cabinet is leaving no stone unturned in efforts to turn around the economy.
It intends to tighten screws on bigwigs in Government and monitor board members and senior executives at parastatals and State enterprises by examining their assets and business interests to ensure good corporate governance.
If the Public Sector Governance Bill is passed by Parliament, permanent secretaries will no longer sit on public boards, while directors who fail to declare assets and or financial interests will face prosecution.
Chief executives of parastatals who fail to deliver under set performance standards will also face punitive action.