Budget should prioritise SMEs, informal sector
In a snap survey, SMEs and informal sector entrepreneurs from Matabeleland region said they were continuously ignored in fiscal policy. Entrepreneurs were speaking in the aftermath of the 2017 pre-budget consultations, which were held under the theme “Enhancing transformative economic development through domestic resource mobilisation and utilisation.” Treasury is expected to present the 2017 budget on December 8, 2016.
Mollen Ndlovu, a poultry farmer from Hwange, said the Government was overlooking and taking informal sector concerns for granted.
“SMEs receive money from the Government but those at the top ignore the needs of those at the grassroots,” Ndlovu said. “We are made to believe that we are marginalised as funds are distributed and only a few corrupt individuals get them. The same people get funding every year, which is unfair.”
She added: “A number of SMEs around the country no longer have interest in the national budget meetings as they feel that their concerns are not being addressed in any of the previous budgets.”
According to Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, SMEs play a key role in the economy, employing about 60 percent of the country’s workforce and contributing about 50 percent of the gross domestic product, the value of goods and services produced during the year.
In the 2016 budget, the Government vowed to support SMEs and resolve perennial challenges such as lack of financing, infrastructure, technology, marketing, as well as management and entrepreneurial skills.
The 2016 budget was supposed to provide support to the SME sector in key areas, including the SME bank, upgrading entrepreneurial skills, improving market access through business to business linkages and facilitating trade promotion and cooperatives development.
Ndlovu said the Government should work on controlling bank charges, which discourage SMEs from banking. “Small businesses do not bank their money in fear that they will not get it back due to withdrawal limits and the cash crisis. Small traders have no viable market and the Government should work on improving that,” she added.
The entrepreneurs said the Government viewed SMEs challenges uniformly despite the fact that problems differed according to geographical locations.
“Our views are always crushed as the Government claims that problems are uniform when geographically they are not the same,” Ndlovu added. “Hwange is
Raffected heavily due to factors such as the indigenisation of coal mines, which has led to unemployment and underdevelopment of our town.”
Mehluli Nkomo, a cross border trader from Lupane, said the Government should adopt a bottom-up approach in its budget consultations, in which smallscale business people can suggest what they think should be improved without the Government telling them of existing policies.
“The budget consultations must be spearheaded by members of Parliament who have to inform the community on what the meetings are all about so that people feel the need to attend,” said Nkomo.”
Another small business trader, Noah Tshuma, said the 2017 budget should explore ventures that would revive the economy and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product, a critical measure of a viable economy.
“The 2016 budget has elapsed with empty promises, therefore the 2017 budget should be premised on reviving the economy and strategies on how best we can revive it,” Tshuma said.
He added: “Among the pertinent issues to be discussed are recapitalisation of the local industry so as to create employment and to restore the country’s economic status in the region.”
A business woman, who imports and sells goods, Siphiwe Mumba, said the Government should support SMEs by facilitating loans to unemployed people who have solid business proposals.
“The Government should help with finances, especially for women; they try to make ends meet, but without capital everything is put on hold,” Mumba said. “The Government should equip individuals with skills and frequently hold workshops teaching people to start businesses with little money. Cross border traders should be allowed to cross the border and buy their wares as long as they have the money to declare their goods.”
However, an economist, John Robertson, said informal sector entrepreneurs were demanding to be part of budget talks, yet they chose not to be formal players in the economy.
He said: “I believe that taxpayers should have a say in the budget; SMEs and the informal sector shun taxes, so it’s next to impossible to have them say anything about taxpayers’ money”.
The Minister of SMEs Sithembiso Nyoni has said the Government was working on formalising the informal sector with the hope enhancing their chances of accessing funding to boost their businesses and contributing tax to Government.