Zimbabwe: Retailers Slam Local Councils Over 5 000 Percent Licensing Fee Hikes

By Alois Vinga
CONFEDERATION Of Zimbabwe Retailer (CZR) has slammed local authorities for hiking licensing fees by 5 000 % amid concerns that such developments contradict President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s commitment to revamp the country’s business sector.

Presenting the sector’s 2021 first-half report this week, the retailers’ group raised concerns over the exorbitant licensing fees.

“The confederation has observed that local authorities have increased fees by an average of 5 000%, cumulatively, since the last quarter of 2020 to date. Landlords have also followed suit despite Covid-19 lockdown induced restrictions which affected optimum trading,” the report said.

CZR said such increases defeat President Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and should be revised downwards as they only increase the cost of doing business and affect the competitiveness of brick and mortar retail establishments.

“The decision to increase fees was taken when businesses were already reeling under the effects of the lockdown and pandemic,” said CZR.

The retailers’ group said during the period under review, inflation rates for electricity remained very high at 208,7%, posing hardships for urban dwellers.

The retailers’ group said gas inflation also stood at 55,34 % in July with university fees recording a very high inflation rate of 353,9 %.

CZR said in July 2021, the TCPL rose to $6 126 translating to about $36 756 per month for a family of six.

“This was way above average incomes of the majority. This is a significant increase from January’s TCPL of $4 987 or $29 922 for a family of six.

“This gives an indication of why domestic demand is still weak, as incomes of the generality of households are not correlated with the minimum income that households are supposed to spend on each month,” CZR said.

The group said such low incomes also affect capacity utilisation and industrial production, as the manufacturing sector cannot produce more than what is needed.

Going forward, the retailers’ group is hopeful that the economy will benefit from the good harvest on the back of the 2020/2021 agricultural season, declining inflation, and the continued rollout of the vaccination programme.

“It is also our hope that there will be consistency in the government’s policies as we are already in an uncertain environment marked by differing coronavirus variants and lockdowns occurring in different parts of the world,” added CZR.

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