Kuda Bwititi and Wallace Ruzvidzo
CHINA’S chief envoy to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Guo Shaochun, believes Zimbabwe can learn crucial lessons from his country’s scientific implementation of the devolution policy.
China’s model contributed to its rapid development from a developing country to the world’s second largest economy.
This comes as Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda has encouraged provinces to up their game in implementing devolution in their respective regions.
Speaking at a devolution seminar for Zimpapers editors attended by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo recently, Ambassador Guo said under the Chinese devolution matrix, performance of officials in respective regions was appraised according to set targets, thereby encouraging healthy competition.
“This system ensures that the powers delegated to lower levels are truly used to implement the policy direction given by the central government.
“It also encourages competition at the local level,” said Ambassador Guo.
He said China had implemented devolution by critically addressing three fundamental issues on delegating powers to lower levels of governance, managing funds and delivering desired results through setting concrete targets.
The ambassador said the Chinese government embraced the Special Economic Zones model to delegate power to the regions.
“The Special Economic Zones were given the powers to formulate their own development plans, give access to foreign investments, conduct industry and commerce registration and land allotment, and decide on fixed asset investment, foreign trade and foreign exchange, pricing, and resources allocation.
“To draw a clear boundary on the roles of responsibilities of different levels of governments, the government created four lists — the list of powers, of responsibilities, a negative list, and a list of service provision.”
Ambassador Guo said China had implemented the concept by emphasising that “devolution process is not a one-way traffic, but an interaction between the central and other levels of governments”.
He said provinces and local authorities were given some autonomy such as the case of Guangdong province, which had power to approve foreign investment projects.
On funding, Ambassador Guo said China delegated significant fiscal powers to the provinces that allowed central government and local authorities to share tax revenues systematically.
“Taxes were divided into three distinct categories: central, local and shared. Central taxes would go into the central coffer and local taxes into local budgets.
“As for the shared taxes, they were divided between the central and provincial governments according to some established formulas.
“For instance, 75 percent of VAT revenue belonged to the central government and the remaining 25 percent to the provincial ones.
“Since then, the revenue-sharing arrangement has been undergoing constant improvements.
“Today the central and provincial governments share income tax by a ratio of 60:40 and VAT by 50:50. Environmental tax belongs completely to local governments to encourage on-the-ground actions.”
The Chinese Ambassador said media houses such as Zimpapers have a crucial role to play in the devolution matrix as they could use their reach to promote healthy dialogue while also countering destructive narratives from social media.
Meanwhile, addressing Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs in Harare on Thursday, Dr Sibanda said local authorities, provinces and districts should become economic hubs that woo investment.
He said provinces need to scale up their efforts, as some of their submissions fell short of expectations for the National Development Strategy, which is Government’s five-year blueprint from 2021-2025 to replace the Transitional Stabilisation Plan that lapses at the end of the year.
“Submissions from provinces should, therefore, take cognisance of the vast endowments present in each of your provinces.
“A lot of investment opportunities exist in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure and energy amongst many more.
“These investment opportunities have to be properly identified and packed so as to attract both local and external investors.”