Gvt goes for the economic jugular -No less than 15 Bills aimed at improving economy, investment

Business Editor
\nTHE country’s Legislature will spend most of its time during the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament putting the legal underpinnings that are needed to make the local economy tick, according to the legislative agenda that was presented by President Robert Mugabe on September 15, 2015.
\nGovernment is moving to put the structural framework that is required to accommodate both domestic and foreign capital for the implementation of the country’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset.

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No less than 15 of the 24 proposed bills – representing 60 percent of the agenda – are clearly the building blocks of the economic environment that is envisaged by Government.

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Not only are the interventions meant to attract and simplify processes for local and international investments, they are also designed to protect it.

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There is even a proposed legislative framework that is designed to nurture and grow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) whose importance to the economy is slowly been entrenched.

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Improving the investment environment
\nFor quite a long time, the country’s institutions and legal framework was considered not to be sensitive to the concerns of the investing public, and it is widely believed that this forced many investors to hold back.

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It is therefore unsurprising that the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, which measures how the business environment is perceived, ranks Zimbabwe 171 out of 183 economies.

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However, the proposed overhaul of the Companies Act and the amendments to the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) Act, including reforms to the Banking Act, will provide a great deal of assurance to investors.

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It is further re-assuring that in the past fortnight, ZIA has been seized with legal aspects of the amendments to the Companies Act.
\nThe statutory body has already invited comments from lawyers and chartered accountants on the amendments, which are expected to be passed by February 2016.

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Though Government launched the One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre on December 13, 2010 in order to cut the bureacracy that was inherent in registering investment projects, over the years there has been structural weaknesses that have been noticed. Authorities are moving in to correct them.

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The number of days taken to process a business application is considered to have been reduced to five but there currently exists impediments that make this realisation difficult.

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For example, most of the officials at the centre do not have the power to make definitive decisions on applications, a development that has been causing some delays.

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This is precisely what is driving Government to transform the centre into a “true” One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre.
\nFurthermore, amendments to the Banking Act will be able to guarantee the security of investments.

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Crucially, President Mugabe’s indication that there was scope for further tax measures to protect the local manufacturing industry is very instructive as to the direction that Government is taking.

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“In order to promote the revival and growth of the local manufacturing sector, action is being taken to limit the importation of goods for which there is adequate local production capacity,” explained President Mugabe.

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Similarly, he provided scope for additional amendment to the Labour Act in order to cater for the concerns of business.
\nA Commission that will fully concentrate on making local industries competitive will be an added benefit for business.

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The recently-opened session of Parliament will be seized with all these reforms.

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Fleshing mining reforms
\nZim-Asset makes it clear that mineral value addition and beneficiation is one of the key pillars expected to anchor local economic growth through 2018. It is precisely for this reason that the Mineral Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill, which is tailored to transform the statutory body into a “full-fledged mineral exploration”, and an institution for value addition and beneficiation – the Pan African Minerals University of Science and Technology – is being prioritised.

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Consumers and SMEs also in mind
\nAs a quid pro quo, Government, which is making several far-reaching concessions to industry, expects the latter to reciprocate through offering value to consumers. But in order to protect consumers to the excesses of business, the Consumer Protection Bill will be pushed through the current session of Parliament.

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The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has for long been pushing this agenda.
\nSo instead of simple moral suasion, Government is putting in place a legal architecture to protect the rights of consumers.While local businesses are being guaranteed the local market, they are also being burdened with the responsibility of treating consumers fairly.

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Operationalising the Zimbabwe Standards Regulatory Authority, as Government has set out to do, will also complement this intervention.
\nIn addition, the Cooperative Societies Act (Amendment Bill) will provide an over-arching framework to promote SMEs.
\nThere is, therefore, every indication that Government is determined to put the economy on the growth path.