Government’s decision to liberalise the importation of fuel, allowing big firms, mainly exporters with free funds, the green light to procure petroleum products for their own consumption was long overdue.
It is our sincere understanding that all progressive companies that have faced numerous operational challenges because of Government’s failure to supply adequate fuel, mainly diesel that is used to power heavy equipment, welcomed the move.
Although the finer details of how the liberalisation is going to be implemented, especially the duty and levies component of fuel for the private importers are yet to be announced, we believe the Government is going to come up with conditions that encourage the companies to import the commodity.
This is not the first time the Government has allowed individuals to import fuel. In 2015, Statutory Instrument (SI) 171 was amended to allow members of the public to import up to 2 000 litres of fuel per month for personal use, but was stopped two years later through SI 122 of 2017.
The SI stipulated that only companies licensed in terms of Section 29 of the Petroleum Act were allowed to import fuel.
But faced with unsustainable stock outs currently bedevilling the country’s fuel supply situation, which are negatively affecting individual consumers and businesses, it is our hope that the Government has enough instruments to ensure no one manipulates the new arrangements for personal gain. Allowing Government to single-handedly source foreign currency was causing a serious squeeze with resource competition, resulting in the central bank failing to release the money on time — scenarios that saw the country running dry in many occasions.
Government has critical responsibilities, among them ensuring the procurement of essential drugs, electricity, water purification chemicals among other important issues that need foreign currency.
We feel freeing Government from importing fuel for companies that have access to foreign currency is going to provide breathing space for the apex bank that was saddled with the task of playing the balancing act with the little forex available.
The decision to liberalise the fuel importation comes at a time the Central Bank is involved in protracted battles with many exporters such as gold miners, tobacco and cotton farmers over foreign currency retention thresholds.
The situation we have calls for all Zimbabweans to be patriotic and we least expect some companies to start giving conditions that they need the threshold renegotiated because they will now be importing fuel.
Inasmuch as the fuel imports will consume a sizeable chunk of their retained foreign currency, we expect all Zimbabweans to understand that the country comes first ahead of individual interests.
Your company cannot be a superstar in an economy where all other companies and Zimbabweans in general will be languishing in abject poverty and this calls for everyone to play ball and rally behind Government. We also do not expect some companies to import their fuel, but continue to use the one procured by Government and only to return theirs when public pumps will be dry — such unfaithfulness will not be accepted.