Ease of doing business: Milestones achieved so far

Dr Misheck Sibanda
AS part of accelerating the implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), the Government through the Office of the President and Cabinet embarked on the rapid results initiative (RRI) approach to the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe.

This was also a response to His Excellency President Mugabe’s call to reform the investment climate. Since September 2015, notable progress, with the support of the World Bank, has been made in improving the business environment for local entrepreneurs as well as laying the foundation for attracting sustainable and mutually beneficial foreign direct investment.

In pursuit of these reforms, five technical working groups were constituted to meet set targets in the following areas; starting a business and protecting minority investors, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency, getting credit, paying taxes and trading across borders and construction permits and registering property. A number of milestones have been achieved in these various thematic areas in identifying the needed reforms.

Legislative milestones have been fast-tracked through the establishment of a dedicated taskforce, chaired by the Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and significant progress has been made in crafting nine pieces of legislation and a number of statutory instruments most of which are now at Parliamentary stage. These are Deeds Registry Act, Judicial Laws Ease of Settling Commercial Disputes Bill, Shop Licensing Act, Insolvency Act, Movable Property Security Interest Bill, Estate Administrators and Insolvency Practitioners Act, Companies Act, Regional Town and Country Planning Act and the Public Procurement Act.

Concerning administrative milestones, processing of construction permits was made faster by streamlining the building plan approval process, while registering property was made 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.

Regarding getting credit, the Banking Act Amendment No. 12/2015 was promulgated on 13 May 2016, to provide for the establishment of the Credit Registry at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as well as licensing and supervision of private credit bureaus. The Act also provides for the collection of credit data from other credit providers, such as credit stores, public utilities, mobile network operators and different credit providers, which provide credit through Government entities, hopefully leading to some sanity in the                  sector.

The Reserve Bank has also finalised the licensing framework for private credit bureaus and all the operating institutions are expected to have been licensed by 30 June 2017.

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. 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 from 14 days to one day.

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 license from 56 days to five days by local authorities.

With regard to Corporate Governance reforms, the Draft Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill was drafted and awaits Cabinet approval, while a survey on State Enterprises and Parastatals (SEPs) Corporate Governance was carried out in 2016 for 39 state enterprises and parastatals.

As a result of the milestones registered so far in the Ease of Doing Business reforms, the Government has undertaken a sectorial approach to Ease of Doing Business in order to holistically and comprehensively address issues affecting the investment and business operating environment. The following sectors have been targeted because of their key role in economic turnaround: Local Authorities, Transport Sector, Export Sector and Tourism. Through the dedicated multi-stakeholder committees composed of Government ministries, entities, relevant associations and the private sector, remarkable progress is being made in this regard.

It should be noted that the implementation of some of the reforms may not be immediately felt on the ground due to their nature and the need for setting up legal framework and re-engineering shorter processes of implementation.

However, the milestones made so far are quite notable and going forward the Government reforms will be supported by a robust communication and a capacity building strategy aimed at making our institutions more service delivery oriented and responsive to the needs of the public.

Dr Misheck Sibanda is the Chief Secretary to the President and the Cabinet.

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