Zvamaida Murwira Mr Speaker Sir
The passage of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) Bill through Parliament last week marks a milestone by the Second Republic to improve, in a significant way, the ease of doing business in the country.
Mr Speaker Sir, it will be recalled that there was a lot of interest and debate that was generated by ZIDA Bill during the Second Reading Stage and Committee Stage, with legislators proposing amendments which they felt would go a long way in improving it.
Quite clearly, Mr Speaker Sir, once the Bill is signed into law by President Mnangagwa it will inevitably mark an important milestone in the road towards making Zimbabwe a middle-income country by 2030, as it is crucial to wealth creation, job creation and to individual and social empowerment.
The objective of the Bill is to unlock the much needed foreign direct investment into the country and is modelled along successful stories in other countries like Rwanda and Botswana that are great examples of countries operating successful one stop investment centres in Africa.
Equally important, Mr Speaker Sir, it is anchored on the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, which is underpinned by the call to undertake structural reform measures to mitigate the challenge and risks faced by the economy, in particular, the low investment in the country.
Last year, President Mnangagwa was charmed by the efficient governance systems in Rwanda when he visited Kigali and had to invite that country’s governance expert Ms Clare Akamanzi to share experiences with Cabinet Ministers, Politburo members, senior Government officials and members of the private sector.
Ms Akamanzi, who is the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) chief executive, held several meetings aimed at sharing experiences on how that country has achieved efficiency.
Tapping from the experience, Zimbabwe structured ZIDA Bill in a manner that seeks to achieve those broad objectives.
The Bill combines the mandates of three existing pieces of legislation that deal with investment, namely the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act, the Special Economic Zones Act and the Joint Ventures Act.
At the apex of the new Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency, as will be recalled, will be the chief executive officer, appointed by the President himself in the first instance (or, in the future, the minister or Vice President administering the Act).
The CEO will be assisted by an Advisory Board of ZIDA, and will ultimately be accountable to Parliament through his or her annual reports, which in itself is the basic tenet of corporate governance.
The Zimbabwe Investment Authority, which is one of the legal instruments to be absorbed by ZIDA Bill, was responsible for issuing licences to foreign and domestic investors and smoothing the way for the commencement of the licensees’ operations.
The Special Economic Zones Act establishes SEZs wherein investors primarily involved in the export trade enjoyed certain privileges, such as exemption from ordinary customs tariffs.
It will also be recalled, Mr Speaker Sir, that the Joint Venture Act was concerned with the exploitation by foreign and domestic investors of State–owned resources, such as land, contracts for Government utilities in the power, transport and water resource field, and the like.
All three of these endeavours will now come under the domain of ZIDA so that policy overlaps and turf wars in the important field of investment will be a thing of the past.
In his Second Reading speech, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi who steered the Bill in both the National Assembly and Senate singled out the One-Stop Investment Service Centre, where delegates from all Government agencies and ministries involved with investment in one way or another are gathered under one roof to assist potential investors with their queries, without having to pass them from pillar to post.
“The Bill also provides important statutory guarantees against discrimination between foreign and domestic investors, and pledges of fair treatment to all investors and against arbitrary expropriation and taxation,” he said.
“Holders of investment licences will be accorded certain privileges, such as priority in the consideration of any secondary licences or permits required to secure their investments.”
“Important prospects are extended to investors whose countries have Bilateral Investment Treaties with us. In particular, such investors may, under certain conditions, have their disputes adjudicated in an international or bi-national forum.”
Debate raged on from legislators why the board of ZIDA’s major role was that of advisory to the chief executive officer.
It is important, however, Mr Speaker Sir, that the ZIDA would be housed in the President’s Office owing to the urgency to attract investment.
As a result of that, it means some of the corruption would be dealt with decisively because the President would have direct access on the agency.
Mr Speaker Sir, despite all the criticism and reservations some legislators expressed on the Bill, after everything has been said and done, the Bill gives a good starting point to improve doing business in the country.
If ever there are any loops, it is still possible for the Executive to revisit such issues and attend to them for the good of the country.
Clearly, the Bill is part and parcel of the reforms being undertaken by the Government on promoting the ease of doing business, as well as to attract the much needed foreign direct investment into the country, which as a nation we have been yearning for.
Mr Speaker Sir, it is quite clear that the Government has walked the talk in so far as creating the enabling legal environment for business.
What remains, Mr Speaker Sir, is the implementation of these impressive legislations.
Zimbabwe, as a country, has been found wanting on implementation where some have argued that the country boasts of good economic blueprints, but have been deficient on executing the same.
The onus, Mr Speaker Sir, now rests with Parliament as it discharges its oversight role to ensure that the spirit of the law is implemented.
Without implementation, middle income class economy will remain a pipe-dream, and it takes everyone responsible to ensure that what is envisaged in the law is implemented.