Prophets of doom eat humble pie

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AS the curtain comes down on 2015, the dominant focus this year has been on how to get the Zimbabwean economy back on track.
While pessimistic economists and analysts sympathetic to the West had predicted an imminent collapse of the Zimbabwean economy following ZANU PF’s landmark election victory against Western-funded MDC-T in July 2013, the doomsayers have been forced to eat humble pie as Zimbabwe continues to lure massive investment deals mostly from the East.
This is despite massive criticism from naysayers who posit that the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act had dampened investor confidence, but the writing on the wall seems to tell a different story as Zimbabwe continues to woo mega deals from some of the greatest names on the world map.
Still fresh in the minds of many is the historic State Visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who came accompanied by a 200-strong delegation of government ministers and senior members of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The Chinese leader and his Zimbabwean counterpart, President Robert Mugabe, signed 12 mega deals worth a staggering US$4 billion in various sectors of the economy, headlined by a US$1,4 billion agreement to upgrade Hwange thermal power plant and a fibre-optic project for state-owned NetOne, among others.
In August this year, President Mugabe clinched mega deals in China worth billions.
One would also recall the visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who sealed a US$3 billion platinum mine deal with President Mugabe in October this year, a deal which reportedly raised the ire of the Obama administration which threatened further sanctions on Harare if it continued dealings with Moscow, according to The Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru (newzimbabwe.com, October 3 2015).
The year 2015 will also be forever remembered for the visit by the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote, who pledged several deals worth over US$1,2 billion. According to a story:’Dangote Deal: Test for investor climate’ (Daily News, September 6 2015), the intimation by Africa’s richest man with a net worth of US$17,4 billion, according to Forbes, to invest in Zimbabwe would be used as a yardstick to gauge the country’s ability to attract and retain foreign direct investment.
Dangote visited Zimbabwe early September, outlining his company’s interest to venture into cement production, coal mining and power generation, and he showed his seriousness by leaving behind a team of experts that hit the ground running.
The Daily News article went on to wax lyrical about how the Dangote deals were likely to fail to take off the ground owing to “government’s policy inconsistencies that are affecting investment in a corruption-ridden government that thrives on bribes”.
The article even quoted serial quisling Farai Maguwu, who said even an investor from the moon would find it hard to do business in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean government on the other hand was not caught napping. According to a story published on October 27 2015 headlined ‘$1,2bn Dangote projects licenced’ (The Herald, October 27 2015), the Zimbabwe Investment Authority granted the Dangote group licenses for three projects worth US$1,2 billion paving way for implementation of the projects scheduled to kick off in early 2016.
While Zimbabwe’s ability to attract foreign direct investment is not questionable, if the few above mentioned mega deals are anything to go by, the burning question that most discerning analysts have asked is: What are Zimbabweans themselves doing to make sure they retain investments from foreigners?
It was in year 2015 that Government unveiled a raft of measures geared towards attracting FDI, key among them aligning world best practices and relevant investment regulation, as well as over-hauling the Companies Act.
Delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on August 25 2015, President Robert Mugabe unveiled a 10-point plan which cut across all economic enablers that he said readied the country’s economy for take-off. In line with achieving that objective, Government would thus implement policies that cultivated a positive investment environment.
“In order to buttress the positive economic gains recorded to date, Government will implement policies that will improve the business environment and promote and attract both domestic and foreign investment,” said President Mugabe.
President Mugabe earlier this year gave Government a directive to improve the ease of doing business by December 13, following a string of complaints from prospective investors frustrated by bureaucracy and rent-seeking behaviour from some Government officials.
In line with improving the ease of doing business, Government recently launched the National Monitoring and Evaluation Policy to facilitate effective implementation of the economic blue-print Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET). According to the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, the monitoring policy is part of an integrated results-based management methodology.
On April 14 this year, Cabinet approved the transformation of the National Income and Pricing Commission into a National Competitiveness Commission (NCC), a process which Dr Sibanda said would run parallel with the finalisation of the Rapid Results Approach on Ease of Doing Business Reforms (The Herald, September 14 2015).
Government, led by the Office of the President and Cabinet, has therefore taken the lead in stepping up efforts to turn around the economy.
These efforts include, but are not limited to:
reducing the starting business period from 90 days to 30 days, a feat scheduled to be achieved by December 21 this year,
monitoring the cost drivers in the economy, seeking to address the current and emerging cost challenges,
reducing the time within which insolvency issues can be resolved from 3,3 years to one year,
reducing the cost to import and export by 30 percent,
reducing the investment approval period from 21 days to 24 hours for company registration,
reducing the time of obtaining a construction permit from 448 days to 120 days by December 21 this year,
reducing the time taken to pay taxes from 242 hours to 160 hours,
reducing the number of days required to register a property to 14 days down from 36 days, amending the Companies Act and relevant legislation that is aligned to world best practices.
As long as corruption is nipped in the bud, the ground is level for Zimbabwe’s economy to take off, provided Government officials and the private sector play their part in making sure Zimbabwean products are competitive.

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