Im­port re­lax­ation clar­i­fied

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Enacy Ma­pakame and Liv­ing­stone Marufu Harare Bureau

GOVERN­MENT has clar­i­fied the eas­ing of im­port con­trols on ba­sic com­modi­ties say­ing the move does not ren­der Statu­tory In­stru­ment 64 of 2016 in­ef­fec­tive, but rather is a call for or­gan­i­sa­tions with free funds to ob­tain li­cences for im­port per­mits to en­sure ad­e­quate sup­plies dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­riod.

In­dus­try and Com­merce Min­is­ter Dr Mike Bimha told our Harare Bureau that the SI 64 of 2016 (now con­sol­i­dated into SI 22 of 2017) ex­plained it­self in that im­ports would chip in when­ever de­mand ex­ceeds sup­ply.

“We have al­ways clar­i­fied that SI 64 (of 2016) is not a ban but a re­stric­tion on im­ports. We can­not im­port when we are pro­duc­ing enough goods for the coun­try and the same can be said on short­ages, we can­not have empty shelves dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­riod be­cause we do not want im­ports.

“What this means is that when there is a short­age due to for­eign cur­rency de­fi­cien­cies, we al­low those with free funds to im­port ba­sic com­modi­ties and my Min­istry is ready to process per­mits and li­cences to that ef­fect,” said Dr Bimha.

He said man­u­fac­tur­ers should not panic to this ef­fect as the Govern­ment is not re­peal­ing SI 64 but im­ple­ment­ing it when­ever there are short­ages.

The Govern­ment has planned to flood the mar­ket to avert short­ages and sup­press price hikes dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

Dr Bimha said some lo­cal pro­duc­ers have cap­i­talised on the lack of com­pe­ti­tion af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion of SI64 to in­crease prices but the flood­ing of goods will sta­bilise the prices.

“We have had a prob­lem of price hikes over the few weeks and some of our man­u­fac­tur­ers are the ones hik­ing the prices, with the eas­ing of im­port per­mits we know more goods will come, hence prices will go down in a way.

“I would like to as­sure the man­u­fac­tur­ers that af­ter the Christ­mas pe­riod we will re­duce the im­port per­mits again and as­sess the sit­u­a­tion at that par­tic­u­lar time,” said Min­is­ter Bimha.

Mean­while the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe In­dus­tries (CZI) pres­i­dent Sife­lani Ja­bangwe said the min­is­ter has a pre­rog­a­tive to is­sue im­port li­cences if there is in­ad­e­quate sup­ply.

“He is see­ing sup­ply chal­lenges em­a­nat­ing from cur­rency is­sues, so this is ba­si­cally al­low­ing those with the money and can af­ford to im­port cer­tain goods to do so. This will en­sure there are no sup­ply gaps on the mar­ket.

“SI64 was in place and help­ful for in­dus­try, but now there is the chal­lenge of for­eign cur­rency which is af­fect­ing sup­ply of cer­tain prod­ucts.

“The li­cences will be is­sued for prod­ucts that can be pro­duced even lo­cally, as long as there are chal­lenges in meet­ing de­mand due to cash short­ages. The is­sue is to en­sure con­sumers are not short changed,” said Mr Ja­bangwe.

Most man­u­fac­tur­ers are call­ing for an ur­gent meet­ing with CZI to en­sure that their in­ter­ests are pro­tected.

Lo­cal pro­duc­ers feel that the re­cent state­ments by Min­is­ter Bimha will af­fect the lo­cal in­dus­try as the cross bor­ders and other in­di­vid­u­als who are hold­ing on to cash will buy cheap im­ports and make Zim­babwe a dump­ing site.

Buy Zim­babwe Econ­o­mist Mr Kip­son Gun­dani weighed in: “As Buy Zim­babwe we are see­ing some kind of panic on the part of the au­thor­i­ties which has led to this. We do not sup­port this move.

“The long term goal was to sup­port lo­cal con­sump­tion and lo­cal pro­duc­tion, to boost in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, now this move may threaten the gains that were achieved by SI64.

“We be­lieve this isn’t the right thing to do, this was driven by panic. If there is a sup­ply gap in the mar­ket, does open­ing bor­ders re­duce com­pe­ti­tion and pro­mote lo­cal firms or what is needed is to mon­i­tor the prod­ucts?”

Lawyers said legally the min­is­ter must sus­pend the op­er­a­tions of SI64 to re­pel or amend the in­stru­ment and right­fully it is within the min­is­ter`s con­fines to sus­pend the in­stru­ment await­ing a de­ci­sion.

“From a le­gal per­spec­tive the an­nounce­ment made is legally in­cor­rect be­cause the above men­tioned should have been done be­fore mak­ing an an­nounce­ment,” a Harare-based lawyer has said.

En­gi­neer Fred Moyo

Dr Mike Bimha

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