The President Cde Mugabe on Tuesday had a busy schedule due to a number of surprises as he celebrated his 93rd birthday. Among the surprises was the presentation of birthday gifts by staff of the Office of The President and the gifts included a pen holder which the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, said was in line with President Mugabe’s thrust of ease of doing business.
Dr Sibanda said this year the OPC will do everything to ensure the ease of doing business and make 2017 the year of delivering on promises to the people.
To the uninitiated, the pen holder is just one of the gifts that the President received on Tuesday but to those citizens concerned about the economic turnaround, the gift is a bold statement of the Government’s intention this year.
Government has since last year been working on identifying shortcomings that have over the years been driving away investors and what came out very clear is that there is a need to ensure ease of doing business. It is because of this realisation that the OPC has resolved to go all out this year to ensure ease of doing business in order to attract Foreign Direct Investors. Among the issues that need urgent attention is high cost of electricity, high taxes and poor transport infrastructure.
Local authorities have a very big role to play in attracting both foreign and local investors. It is the councils that ensure that there is adequate land for investment, adequate water supplies and that the investors get the required services.
Government realised that some investors were being frustrated by long and protracted procedures in their quest to invest in the country hence the mechanisms being put in place to reduce the waiting period.
There is therefore a need for a continuous dialogue between Government and business so that Government is made aware of challenges facing business. It is pleasing to note that this engagement is already paying dividends. Recently there was a public outcry from business when Government introduced a 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on basics such as beef, chicken, fish, potatoes, rice and margarine and the Government responded by suspending the tax.
When the business community complained about the impact of the new tax, it was doing this not just to protect the viability of businesses but also to protect the consumers who could no longer afford the basics. We want to commend businesses for quickly reverting to the old prices soon after Government suspended the tax which confirms that businesses are sensitive to the plight of consumers.
Government, the private sector and labour are all agreed that a lot needs to be done to ensure the country has investor friendly policies so that it becomes an investment destination of choice for both local and foreign investors. The country cannot continue to lose investors to its neighbours such as South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.
It is time the country moves to address its shortcomings in order to create a conducive environment for investment and at the same time starts talking the language that attracts foreign investors. It is pleasing to note that Government Ministers and the MPs now appreciate the negative impact of giving conflicting policy statements.
We totally agree with Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa that once there is a disagreement or perceived disagreement, capital runs away. We therefore need not emphasise the importance of speaking with one voice when it comes to issues of investment regardless of our political differences. At this juncture we want to implore the Government, the private sector and labour to, without delay, move to swiftly to create a conducive environment for foreign investment.
There is no excuse to fail because the highest office in the land which is that of the OPC has pledged its commitment to ensure ease of doing business. The OPC deliberately timed Tuesday when people were celebrating President Mugabe’s birthday to remind the nation that the thrust this year is to ensure ease of doing business and that the year should be a year of delivering.
People need jobs, affordable goods, services and this is only possible if the country is able to attract both local and foreign investors. We want to once again call upon councils, government departments and the private sector to complement the OPC’s efforts of ensuring ease of doing business.