Govt’s policy confusion continues

Source: Govt’s policy confusion continues – DailyNews Live

Ndakaziva Majaka      23 May 2017

HARARE – The fatal policy inconsistencies of President Robert Mugabe’s
ever-blundering government – which have left the Zimbabwean economy on its
knees – have once again been cruelly exposed.

This comes after Industry and Commerce minister Mika Bimha said yesterday
that the ban on the importation of basic consumer goods into the country
would stay – hardly 48 hours after State media had been made to believe
that the contentious embargo had been lifted.

The government introduced the controversial ban in June last year, after
it invoked Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 – as it bid to curb ballooning
imports, and to protect struggling local industries.

But Bimha told journalists yesterday that SI 64 was “here to stay” despite
the earlier indications that it was being phased out.

“As of now, SI 64 remains in place and what we are doing is to buttress SI
64 by other measures, including the local content policy.

“The whole idea behind SI 64 was to allow industry to re-tool and
re-equip, and we cannot possibly say this was achieved over one year.

“Apart from this, we would still need a report from the SI 64 evaluation
and monitoring committee on the effectiveness of the instrument, before we
can scrap it, and as you may be aware, this report is yet to be compiled,”
Bimha said on the side-lines of an industrial tour in Harare.

“I have always told manufacturers not to relax, because the SI will not
last forever. And we are not just going to implement a blanket approach to
scraping it. We will apply this sector by sector, examining those who will
have recorded successes and then lifting the protection.

“When SI 64 came into being, there were threats of retaliation from our
trading partners. At that time there were threats from South Africa, our
major trading partner, followed by Zambia.

“We were proactive and engaged them . . . demonstrating why we had come up
with the measure and where Zimbabwe was going, and that was well received
and the government of South Africa understood and even promised to give us
the support to make sure we succeed.

“But they did mention that they were also facing pressure from their
private sector for obvious reasons because they were now losing the
revenue that they were used to . . . However, all these issues were
resolved,” he added.

The government imposed a ban on the importation of a number of basic
consumer goods last year, saying this was an endeavour to not only reduce
imports in the wake of worsening cash shortages, but also to stimulate
local industry.

But the decision backfired spectacularly when deadly riots paralysed
operations at Beitbridge Border Post just weeks after this was introduced,
with protesters burning a Zimra warehouse in the process.

Among the products whose importation was banned were coffee creamers,
Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams, baked beans, potato
crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter,
jam, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza bases, yoghurts, flavoured
milk, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.

Zimbabwe is currently in the middle of a severe economic crisis which has
seen local production plummeting to frightening levels due to low capacity
utilisation and depressed investor confidence.