Businesses wait for SEZ kick-start

Source: Businesses wait for SEZ kick-start – Sunday News Jan 29, 2017

Dickson Mangena, Business Reporter
THE Association for Business in Zimbabwe (ABUZ) has said businesses were pinning their hope for economic recovery of Bulawayo to the anticipated operationalisation of the Special Economic Zone policy.

President Mugabe signed into law the Special Economic Zones Bill in November after he had referred it back to Parliament in September after he expressed reservations on a clause that sought to suspend the Labour Act which could have resulted in the abuse of workers. Bulawayo is one of the cities which have been identified as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

In an interview, ABUZ chief executive officer Dr Lucky Mlilo, said businesses in Bulawayo were hopeful that SEZs will be operationalised this year to bring about positives in the economy.

“We are looking forward to the implementation of Special Economic Zones programmes and find out how companies can benefit from some of the exemptions that come with the policy.

“Investors have to make sure what the advantages of investing in SEZs are before they actually come in. So we are waiting for Government and local authorities to announce the implementation of the programme,” said Dr Mlilo.

SEZs encourage investors to set up in designated areas, as such financial policies which may not be applicable to other economic spheres are introduced.

Policies in the SEZ typically regard investing, taxation, trading, quotas, customs and labour regulations. Additionally, companies may be offered tax holidays.

The Government mooted SEZs with a view to attract investment and facilitate trade following economic instability. While economic growth picked pace after dollarisation in 2009, it has slowed down due to a myriad of reasons including lack of funding, antiquated equipment translating into high cost of production and uncompetitiveness of local firms. Dr Mlilo said most businesses in the city were still struggling with paying their foreign suppliers as the liquidity crisis continues.

“Companies are still struggling to pay their foreign suppliers as they have no money because of the liquidity crisis. Some companies have been advised to hold off orders. And if your orders are below half in the priority list the approvals take too long,” said Dr Mlilo.

He also said some of the challenges that companies faced were utility costs, lack of credit lines and the liquidity crisis.

“Our challenges have not changed because we still lack credit lines to recapitalise our businesses. Utility costs are affecting companies. People are just buying essentials,” Dr Mlilo said.