Govt in­vites SEZs ap­pli­ca­tions

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Business Re­porters

THE Gov­ern­ment has in­vited ap­pli­ca­tions from com­pa­nies that are keen to op­er­ate un­der the Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zones (SEZs) con­cept as it moves to op­er­a­tionalise the cru­cial eco­nomic strat­egy.

SEZs pro­vide in­cen­tives and a favourable en­vi­ron­ment in­vestors would or­di­nar­ily not be able to get, giv­ing them com­fort and more rea­son to take the plunge.

Last week, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe signed the SEZs Bill into law after re­fer­ring it back to Par­lia­ment in Septem­ber upon ex­press­ing reser­va­tions on a clause that sought to sus­pend the Labour Act whose ef­fect would have ex­posed the work­ers to “se­ri­ous” abuse by em­ploy­ers.

With the SEZs law now in place, com­pa­nies can start ap­ply­ing to the Zim­babwe In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity (ZIA), a se­nior Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said.

Per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Plan­ning and In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Dr De­sire Sibanda told Business Chron­i­cle on the side­lines of the just-ended 2017 Par­lia­men­tary pre-na­tional bud­get sem­i­nar in Bulawayo, that the sign­ing of the Bill by the Pres­i­dent is a great step for the econ­omy.

“What is out­stand­ing, for ex­am­ple, is the ap­point­ment of a board for the SEZ but now if com­pa­nies want to op­er­ate in a SEZ then they can start ap­ply­ing now be­cause it is now law,” said Dr Sibanda.

It is hoped that through SEZ Act, Zim­babwe would im­prove in­dus­trial growth in des­ig­nated ar­eas such as Bulawayo that was once the coun­try’s in­dus­trial hub.

“Bulawayo used to be the in­dus­trial hub in Zim­babwe but in­dus­try has gone down. This SEZ Act is meant to im­prove in­dus­trial growth in Bulawayo, the same thing with Harare.

“Victoria Falls was de­clared a SEZ for the sim­ple rea­son that we need our tourism in­dus­try to grow. So these ar­eas that have been se­lected in­clud­ing Sun­way City are meant to fast track the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SEZs,” he added.

Dr Sibanda re­it­er­ated that the SEZs con­cept was not pe­cu­liar to Zim­babwe as a num­ber of fast grow­ing African coun­tries have in­tro­duced the ini­tia­tive.

He said such coun­tries in­clude Ghana and Zam­bia, adding that the other coun­tries in Africa were in­spired to es­tab­lish SEZs by China.

China, the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy after the US, has suc­cess­fully built a di­ver­si­fied in­dus­trial base and has pledged to help Zim­babwe in de­vel­op­ing SEZs.

Ex­perts say the sign­ing of the SEZ Bill into law by Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe lays a solid foun­da­tion for in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and eco­nomic growth. Zim­babwe wields un­lim­ited po­ten­tial for eco­nomic growth and pros­per­ity, but lacked the spark to ig­nite its po­ten­tial while the decade of eco­nomic down­turn pulled it down.

SEZs are be­ing es­tab­lished to re­store and drive the econ­omy’s ca­pac­ity to pro­duce goods and ser­vices com­pet­i­tively and to cre­ate economies of scale good enough for the lo­ca­tor of the pro­posed SEZs to be in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pet­i­tive.

Other ob­jec­tives of the SEZ in­clude en­sur­ing in­clu­sive growth em­a­nat­ing from the spread of growth nodes and di­ver­si­fied pro­vin­cial of­fer­ings; to max­imise the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of a given ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion and its stake­hold­ers and to at­tract more in­vest­ment from the international world.

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