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STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT MUGABE
AT JOINT SITTING OF SENATE AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Tuesday 25th August 2015
Madame President of the Senate, Mr Speaker Sir; Honourable Members of Parliament; Invited Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; Comrades and Friends.
As a Nation, we occasionally find time to reflect on our achievements and the challenges we face in our quest to improve people’s quality of life.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, we have been able to do so in an environment of peace and stability, sustained since Independence. To this end, I wish to pay tribute to our security and defence forces, and the generality of our people, who have joined hands in peace building efforts, even under very difficult socio-economic conditions.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, to maintain economic growth, and especially the creation of jobs for our people, my Government has proposed a Ten Point Plan of:
- Revitalizing Agriculture and the Agro-processing value chain.
2 Advancing Beneficiation and/or Value Addition to our agricultural and mining resource endowment.
3 Focusing on infrastructural development, particularly in the key Energy, Water, Transport and ICTs subsectors.
4 Unlocking the potential of Small to Medium Enterprises.
5 Encouraging Private Sector Investment.
6 Restoration and building of confidence and stability in the financial services sector.
7 Joint ventures and public-private partnerships to boost the role and performance of state owned companies.
8 Modernising Labour Laws.
9 Pursuing an Anti-Corruption thrust
10 Implementation of Special Economic Zones to provide the impetus for foreign direct investment.
Honourable members, please take note that the continued focus on the development of our human capital resource, will be key in this endeavour.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, overall economic performance, to date, indicates modest growth, particularly in the sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism, construction and telecommunications. The economic growth rate, which was initially projected at 3.2 per cent, is now expected to register 1.5 per cent growth in 2015, this being occasioned primarily by the negative impact of drought in our agriculture sector.
In 2014 to 2015 season, crop production was negatively affected by a combination of the late onset of rains and its uneven distribution, both consequences of climate change. Consequently, the agricultural sector performance will be below expectation. Such a situation negatively impacts on the country’s overall economic growth. In line with our Food and Nutrition policy thrust, Government, working closely with the private sector and development partners, has adopted a grain importation programme, even though, as we now discover from the volumes of maize sales to the GMB, our farmers did better than we had estimated.
Given the strategic importance of the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO), Government will resuscitate COTTCO in order to restore viability in cotton farming in Zimbabwe. Government will ensure that cotton, which is largely grown by small holder farmers, can once more provide a livelihood for over 300 000 households and jobs for many in the textile industry. The same success story that we witnessed in the production of tobacco over the past few years must now happen to cotton.
Mining, in 2015, exhibits stronger growth of well above 3.5 per cent, despite the impact of declining international prices. This growth is primarily driven by substantial output increases of gold, nickel, platinum, chrome, coal, among other minerals. In order for the country to fully benefit from this sector, Government will maintain the policy thrust on beneficiation and value addition that is supported by other reforms which enhance transparency and accountability in the sector.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, the tourism sector continues to experience tremendous growth and development. It is set to grow by more than 5 per cent this year, reflecting growth in confidence in Zimbabwe as a peaceful tourism destination. Tourism is mainly being driven by our rich climatic, natural and man-made attractions, as well as the peaceful environment prevailing in the country. Current interventions on marketing, relaxing the visa regime, investment in tourism and other related infrastructure, and the promotion of the ‘Open Skies Policy’, should see the sector making further growth.
Following the closure of large corporations, Small to Medium Enterprises have become prominent in the Zimbabwean economy. Although the SME’s sector has steadily become the main source of livelihood for many, the youth, retrenchees and the unemployed, among them, the sector is experiencing several challenges. Government will need to address SMEs operating infrastructure, such as construction of vendor marts and factory shells, and the provision of human power training.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, the Financial Services Sector generally remains stable, notwithstanding constraints in the operating environment. This stability is a result of various initiatives by Government and other key stakeholders. To maintain such stability, Government will continue to focus on instituting corrective Statutory Instruments including the amendments to the Banking Act which aims at the strengthening of management, supervision and surveillance of financial institutions.
Government has embarked on a US$125 million ICT project for the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting. Although the migration process applies to television broadcasting only, Zimbabwe’s radio broadcast infrastructure is also being revamped through the same project. Once the forty-eight television transmitters are established on designated sites, and twenty-five radio transmitters have been installed, Zimbabwe is going to achieve universal coverage of radio and television services for the first time in the history of broadcasting in this country.
To further strengthen the implementation of the e-Governance Programme, my Government working together with the Government of the People’s Republic of China established the High Performance Computing (HPC) Centre at the University of Zimbabwe in February 2015. Zimbabwe’s HPC is the third largest super computer on the African continent. The immense computing power of the HPC system can be used for socio-economic planning, numerical weather prediction, climate modelling and many other applications to assist in informed decision making by policy-makers.
With a view to bringing health services to the people, and improve access, 51 Rural Health Centres have been built, 103 are under construction, and 400 have been rehabilitated. We are also grateful to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the medical equipment we have been receiving through a US$90 million loan facility extended to us. The package includes equipment and supplies for operating theatres, surgical, radiological, renal, dental equipment, and special ambulances, among other medical equipment.
Madam President, Mr Speaker Sir, in order to revamp our infrastructural inadequacies, Government is pursuing both domestic and external alternative financing for key programmes under ZIM ASSET. Zimbabwe is already positioning itself for major economic take-off in keeping with ZIM ASSET which requires massive capital injection and rapid implementation. This has seen Government signing key projects with China covering energy, roads, railways and telecommunication, water, agriculture, mining and tourism.
Let me reiterate that Government recognises the importance of strengthening re-engagement with the international community. Indeed, current re-engagement efforts with both bilateral and multilateral partners, including the African Development Bank, the Afro-Asian Bank and the World Bank under various initiatives, should see improvement of relations and the opening up of new financing avenues, for long overdue reforms and development cooperation.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, 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. In this regard, it is our expectation that once the National Diaspora Policy is finalised, it should spur our people in the Diaspora to take advantage of the many investment opportunities existing in the economy.
In line with the Rapid Results Approach Framework, we should see, before the 31st of December 2015, an urgent overhaul of the Companies Act and all pieces of allied legislation which have hitherto hindered the ease of doing business. Instead, we expect a clear and robust legislative and regulatory framework to be urgently put in place in order to create a One Stop Investment Centre that streamlines processes and procedures. This is now a very urgent and high priority matter for which those responsible will be held to account.
Government acknowledges that unsound procurement practices are slowing down economic growth in the country. In view of this, a new Procurement Bill will be drafted and tabled in Parliament before the end of 2015. The Bill will incorporate COMESA procurement Guidelines which emphasise devolution of power to award tenders to procuring entities. The procuring entities would comprise Government Ministries, Parastatals, State Enterprises and Local Authorities. The State Procurement Board will be transformed into a new non-executive procurement authority tasked with setting standards and guidelines as monitoring compliance by procurement entities. It will also act as advisor to Government on Public Procurement Policy.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, another key priority for Government as we strive to return the economy to sustained growth, is the reform of Parastatals and State Enterprises. In this regard, Government has now embarked on a programme of Parastatal reform which has prioritised ten strategic state enterprises to urgent attention. In each case, specialised audits are to be undertaken and various reform and turn-around options identified. Underlining the importance we accord agriculture, the Parastatal reform programme is beginning with the Grain Marketing Board and the Cold Storage Company.
In the interim, however, and as an important parallel process, Government has also turned the spotlight on Corporate Governance throughout the public sector, including across all parastatals, state enterprises and local authorities. It is very clear that, over many years, and due to a variety of reasons, the level of compliance with good corporate governance principles at many, if not most, of our parastatals/state enterprises, has fallen to levels well below what might be regarded as even “minimally acceptable”.
The extravagance of remuneration packages and associated benefits which boards and management have blithely awarded themselves, borders on the obscene, reflecting avarice and greed, instead of the commitment to serve which we expect, indeed demand, of those appointed to such strategic positions. The launch, in April 2015, of the National Code on Corporate Governance, and the current process of integrating the principles therein in the amendments to the Companies Act, indicate Government’s serious intent in this regard.
Following the Supreme Court ruling of 17th July 2015, which saw thousands of workers being fired at three months’ notice, Government has reviewed the Labour Act. We must remove common law provisions that have been used by employers to unilaterally dismiss workers on notice, sending them home empty handed. Whereas this is intended to be a win-win outcome for business and labour in the true spirit of smart partnerships, the labour reforms are part of the raft of policy measures and legislation being pursued by Government to improve the Ease of Doing Business environment.
Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to conclude by urging our people to continue to treasure and safeguard the peace that we enjoy, and to promote the unity and spirit of hard work that Zimbabweans, all the world over, are known for. Let us continue to believe in ourselves, to believe in our collective capacity to overcome adversity and challenges that confront us.
I thank you