Drive to improve ‘Ease of Doing Business’

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THIS year’s Independence theme was ‘Zimbabwe @ 37: Embracing Ease of Doing Business for Socio-economic Development’.
It’s been 37 years now since Zimbabwe got its political independence.
And the highlight this year is the Ease of Doing Business.
Doing Business sheds light on how easy or difficult it is for local and foreign investors to open and run small to medium-size businesses while complying with relevant regulations.
It measures and tracks changes in regulations affecting the following areas that are viewed as defining the life cycle of a business; starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and labour market regulation.
The Ease of Doing Business reforms are aimed at restoring confidence among foreign investors, industry, commerce and other stakeholders in the recovery of the economy.
A high Ease of Doing Business ranking means that the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm.
There are a series of annual reports on doing business that are issued in every country globally.
These reports present quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 189 economies, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, over time.
The indicators are used to analyse economic outcomes and identify what reforms have worked, where and why.
Zimbabwe has consistently ranked poorly in the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business index.
The 2017 index ranked Zimbabwe at 161 out of 191 countries.
The previous year, the country ranked 157.
There has been so much concern about the challenges of Ease of Doing Business in Zimbabwe.
Actually it has been acknowledged that doing business in Zimbabwe is a problem.
Among the challenges are high electricity cots and taxes to too much paper work.
The problem has cost the country the potential for real growth.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Government has stepped up efforts to improve the business environment in the country through initiatives aimed at encouraging investment and making local producers competitive in light of the strong US dollar, which has affected local manufacturers.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All report, developing countries carried out more than 75 percent of the 283 reforms in the past year, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for over a quarter of all reforms.
According to the report, Zimbabwe streamlined the building plan approval process thereby making it faster for those dealing with construction permits.
The Construction Permits and Property Registration cluster has reduced time to process construction permits to 120 days from 448 days.
Property Registration now takes just 14 days, having been reduced from 36 days.
The report said the country made registering property easier by launching an official website containing information on the list of documents and fees for completing a property transaction, as well as, a ‘specific time frame for delivering a legally-binding document that proves property ownership’.
Zimbabwe has managed to significantly reduce the time it takes to register a company from three months to just 13 days.
“On starting a business, implementation of the online company name search application system has seen a total of 3 386 name searches being processed online,” said Dr Misheck Sibanda, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet
“An average of 60 applications is being received and processed online every day.
“This has reduced the turnaround time and cost for name search applications from seven days to one day.
“The computerisation of the NSSA processes also reduced manpower registration turnaround time.
“Furthermore, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, through a general notice published in the Government Gazette in March 2016, waived the need to advertising the business operating in designated areas.
“This reduced the number of days to obtain a shop licence from 56 days to five days by local authorities,” Dr Sibanda said.
Under the Paying Taxes cluster, the time taken to pay taxes has been reduced to 160 hours from 242 hours.
Zimbabwe was lauded for improving access to credit by allowing the establishment of a credit registry.
The country has also reduced the severance structure for redundancies, which was previously among the highest in the world.
Seventeen economies, including Zimbabwe, improved their score on the quality of land administration index in 2015/16.
The country, however, was found wanting on the trading across borders cluster after introducing ‘a mandatory pre-shipment inspection for imported products’.
The restrictions came as a result of the introduction of the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment.
The new ranking makes Zimbabwe the worst-placed country in southern Africa behind South Africa (74), Botswana (71), Zambia (98), Lesotho (100), Namibia (108), Swaziland (111), Malawi (133) and Mozambique (137).
In sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius was the highest ranked economy at 49th.
It also comes after Zimbabwe has embarked on a number of reforms, with the Office of the President and Cabinet in charge of the reform process with a target of attaining a ranking of below 100.
Recently, the Government established a taskforce to spearhead the enactment into law of a number of Bills, as it quickens the Ease of Doing Business reforms.
The Doing Business Legislative Reform taskforce is headed by Justice Ministry permanent secretary, Virginia Mabhiza and has representation from all relevant ministries and agencies, including the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

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