WHILE Zimbabwe today opens the 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo which will host thousands of delegates from across the globe, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and his colleagues in government have to convince all those attending that indeed our country is truly open for business.
The diamond jubilee show running under the theme: “Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment” will be a challenge to Ncube who until now seems to have brewed policy inconsistencies that have confused a market which is already fragile and in intensive care.
Yes, we will be receiving around 444 confirmed direct exhibitors, according to the ZITF Company and of these 22 are foreign exhibitors representing 16 countries.
That is very impressive because we have highly international industrialised countries like Germany, Japan, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Mauritius that can bring heavy investments if our policies were in order.
The regional countries coming to exhibit; Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia also have a lot to offer, hence the ball is in our court, so are our cries to Ncube to clear the path for healthy and vibrant investments.
We still have a lot of work to do in order to lure investors in the country; hence Ncube has to really pull up his socks.
According to 2018 World Bank annual ratings Zimbabwe was ranked 155 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business field. Ease of doing business in Zimbabwe averaged 161,91 from 2008 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 171 in 2011 and a record low of 153 in 2014.
The ease of doing business index ranks countries against each other based on how the regulatory environment is conducive to business operation and stronger protections of property rights.
Economies with a high rank (1 to 20) have simpler and friendlier regulations for businesses; so it means as a nation we still very far from doing the right things that will attract businesses.
These indicators are not good at all as these are used as bench marks by businesses.
Locally, Ncube should urgently introduce subsidies to manufacturers of basic goods so as to arrest the high flying prices.
Government should also avail foreign currency to companies whose products survive on imports as this can be one way to address the issue of price hikes.
As of now Ncube is being judged negatively because prices of basic goods such as sugar, cooking oil and bread are rising by the blink of an eye. He has to quickly find ways to tame and stop the surging foreign currency parallel market rate.
As the Finance chief executive of Zimbabwe, Ncube has to explain to ordinary Zimbabwe how a loaf of bread can just shoot up from RTGS$1,70 to RTGS$3,50 while sugar shoots up from RTGS$3,69 to RTGS$5,29. To the ordinary citizens who are already suffering this borders to criminality.
Since Ncube came into office nothing in terms of the economy seems to have changed for the better with the continuous price increases driving our year-on-year inflation rate which jumped to 66,80 percent in March, from 59,4 percent in February.
On the other hand activity on the interbank has remained largely subdued since the platform was launched in February this year as importers struggle to get imports of raw materials.
Another hindrance in business is the interbank market rate, which opened at 1 to 2,5 between the green back and the local RTGS dollar, has since dropped to around 1 to 3,18.
In his 2019 Monetary Policy Statement announced this February, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor John Mangudya discarded the 1:1 exchange rate between the US dollar and bond or RTGS money.
The policy adjustment also resulted in the introduced of the RTGS$ with an interbank market rate of 2,5 to the USD but trading on the illegal black market at a premium rate of 4,2
At the rate which we are travelling and the introduction of the two (2) percent tax on an already burdened populace, Ncube’s time is fast running out; what with salaries and wages of employees remaining stagnant?
Wilson is DOP president