Source: Let’s consult widely before policies | The Herald August 18, 2016
Victoria Ruzvidzo : Business Focus
The debate and even confrontation in some instances elicited by Statutory Instrument 64 since its launch a few months ago brings to the fore the need for Government to consult widely before policies are introduced if these are to elicit the intended response and results. Government’s role has always been that of facilitating a conducive operational environment for such players as the private sector in growing or transforming the economy. The problems come when the latter feels constricted by a law or a regulation that was initially meant to make business much easier to run.
A case in point is the SI 64 and the issues around it which have generally reflected inadequate consultation or wrong interpretation in the strictest sense. Why has there been demonstrations and meetings after meetings to explain its provision? It’s simply because something went wrong either in its formulation, implementation or interpretation hence the noise and crafting of devious ways to go round it.
The Tripartite Negotiation Forum and the National Economic Consultative Forum present effective platforms through which Government and its partners can bounce off ideas before they are implemented or enacted, giving room for tweaking in cases where one aspect or the other of a policy or strategy is deemed impractical or detrimental to the economy and the general welfare of the intended beneficiaries.
Effective communication is also key to ensure that policies are not misinterpreted or viewed in the wrong context, all to the detriment of the development process. In the end, the Government is often blamed for policy inconsistency when at times it is mere clarification that will be lacking.
More often than not, we have had ministers in discord while in others the minister and the permanent secretary contradict each other, leaving the market confused as regards which version of the policy to believe and operate by.
We shall not give too many examples but this has been the case in many instances.
When the SI 64 was first introduced, we were told that it effectively banned the importation of all the goods that were listed and there was a serious uproar.
But a few days or weeks later another announcement then said that individuals could still import the same products but only for consumption, with bulk imports requiring a special licence for authorisation after the 42 products were removed from the open general import licence, restricting their importation into this country.
In hindsight, the intentions appeared to have been good but there was something grossly wrong about the timing and the implementation process that caught traders and travellers unawares as many had all their products confiscated at border posts before clarification as regards the quantities was made.
Resultantly, we have had some sections applauding Government for introducing SI64 as a measure to protect local industry but on the other hand, some have argued that there is no industry to protect in the first place hence the imports should not be restricted at all.
The latter has largely come from informal traders who have been earning a living from importing groceries, furniture and other products at a cheaper price for resale back home.
So both arguments seem to make sense but obviously the more beneficial to the economy should carry the day. But be that as it may, nothing is entirely bad. We welcome initiatives by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Mr Mike Bimha to engage industry and other interested parties to reconsider aspects of SI64 while consolidating others. The engagement is quite progressive.
He was available to explain Government’s position when the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries hosted a breakfast this week to iron out outstanding issues to do with the Statutory Instrument. He made it clear that the instrument was amenable to any modification as emphasised that some sections of business had actually implored Government to introduce it.
Minister Bimha said the policy was a temporary measure to address challenges in the manufacturing sector. We believe him but we hope that the temporary measure would not bring with it permanent complications.
The tone from the minister was one that reflected eagerness to hear out those companies that may have been adversely affected by the new policy, particularly those whose business relied on imports and were threatened with closure if their concerns were not heard as a matter of urgency.
It was important for business to highlight the unintended effects of the policy measure, he said.
“SI64 is not meant for companies to shed labour where companies get adverse effects. We need to strike a balance. You should come and talk to us. We need to find ways of making sure companies survive and continue to comply. I would not dream that this policy would affect so and so in this manner,” said Minister Bimha.
Indeed minister we would not expect to introduce policies based on just dreams but from a careful assessment of implications and effectiveness of doing so lest the dreams are misinterpreted. Of course, as an aside, in the spiritual world dreams do matter and they may help take the economy forward if interpreted well.
We welcome the establishment of a team to monitor and evaluate the effects of SI64 on the business sector. The intention being to improve its application in response to recommendations from stakeholders.
This is critical to take the economy forward and we hope with hindsight, Government will in future see the need to consult widely so that policies are tailor-made for the targeted beneficiary while ensuring fewer hiccups.
Below is the last part on thoughts sent by a Zimbabwean George Nduma Sithole based in the United Kingdom:
“What worries me most, is lack of innovations in black Africa. We are still dependent on what our erstwhile colonial masters left us. Why does black Africa fear plunging itself into the unknowns? It is within these unknowns, that we are likely to come up with discoveries and inventions. The world will then begin to respect us. Capitalism is so entrenched in Zimbabwe, such that all economic programmes can only be implemented if they bring about huge profits.
“If we introduce some voluntary sectors, in our development programmes, whereby the locals are encouraged to improve their services, such as sanitation, etc, we can accelerate our pace of development. The problem is that of a capitalist legacy handed down to us by our colonial masters which still rules supreme. Nothing can be done without money. I do still believe, though, that we have patriots in Zimbabwe, and of course sub-Saharan Africa, who are ready to join the fray, where money may be relegated to second priority.
“These people are no different from our cadres who took up arms to liberate us from colonial bondage. Economic war is difficult to win and is likely to be more protracted than where technological hardware is the order of the day. We need to win it in sub-Saharan Africa. We need leaderships, which do not believe that we are second class humans. Africa is the cradle of humanity and civilization. We must never allow ourselves to be beggars,for ever. No. An abundance of natural resources in our continent gives us an edge, to lift our people from poverty and other social ills,in the near future. Let us get on with it.
“Thank you for now.”
In God I Trust
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