THE Chronicle today convenes a dialogue bringing together captains of industry and commerce in Bulawayo during which deliberations will centre on key fiscal policy measures needed to revitalise industries in the country’s second largest city and brainstorm on ideas to grow the wider national economy.
With the national pre-budget consultations having kicked off around the country, Zimpapers, as the largest integrated media company in Zimbabwe, is playing its part in assisting Treasury to come up with a fiscal policy statement that will not only speak to the needs and aspirations of the generality of the country’s population but one that will truly address the pressing issues affecting the performance of industry nationwide.
The event draws participation from economic experts, consultants and representatives from the small to medium enterprises sector, which is increasingly becoming a haven for thousands of entrepreneurs.
We expect the dialogue to come up with concrete ideas and make recommendations that will be submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development as input for inclusion in the crafting of the 2018 national budget policy statement.
Government, through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance, is also gathering countrywide stakeholder input ahead of the budget presentation before the end of the year and through this dialogue, The Chronicle, as the voice of the southern region of the country, is doing its bit to shine a light on the major bottlenecks constraining industry in this part of Zimbabwe.
Bulawayo was once the industrial hub of Zimbabwe but a collapse of several firms in the city and the attendant loss of jobs in the last decade saw the city attain almost ghost-like status but there has been a marked resurgence with some companies rebounding.
The pre-budget dialogue engagement therefore seeks to add impetus to the urgency for the formulation of fiscal policy support measures that could assist ailing companies and consolidate gains achieved so far.
In this regard, participants are expected to engage on a variety of topics that include the ongoing debate around the crafting of a local content policy to tame imports. Discussions will also touch on the taxation framework in Zimbabwe and interrogate the cost drivers that impede production growth.
These will be discussed within the context of the state of Bulawayo industries in particular and the general economic performance in the country.
Renowned economist and consultant, Dr Gift Mugano, will lead the discussion on local content policy while respected academic and researcher, Dr Nyasha Kaseke, will facilitate engagement on the tax framework. The duo will share the stage with Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland Chapter president, Mr Joseph Gunda, who will deliver an address on the state of Bulawayo industries and highlight the existing opportunities and threats.
The revival of Bulawayo industries is at the heart of the Government top priorities under Zim-Asset hence the adoption of initiatives such as the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) concept, which are expected to increase investment in the economy. The leading economies of the world, particularly the Asian Tigers that have recorded massive economic growth in a short space of time, have adopted models that emphasise on spurring exports through value addition. They have perfected the SEZs concept which has spawned the growth of export centres that are driving their economies.
Through Zim-Asset, Zimbabwe is already on the right path and needs to consolidate its economic blueprint by fully implementing it.
Bulawayo has already been designated as a manufacturing SEZ although modalities for a particular model are being finalised and we feel the operationalisation of the concept should be expedited.
The model ties closely with the broader value addition and beneficiation thrust under Zim-Asset, which seeks to ensure the country derives maximum benefits from its industrial processes, thereby creating more job opportunities along value chains.
We are also glad that the discussions during the dialogue will also take stock of the role of the SMEs in the economy and how opportunities in this sector could be harnessed. SMEs drive economic revival and ways should be found to support them.
The engagement outcomes are also expected to dovetail with the on-going ease of doing business thrust spearheaded by the Office of the President and Cabinet to improve the business and investment climate in the country as a whole. This is in conformity with the accelerated implementation of Zim-Asset and the 10-Point Plan, in order to promote the growth of the economy.
As a newspaper, we are delighted to be playing our part in encouraging dialogue among key stakeholders in the country’s economy. We hope deliberations will result in key recommendations which will be taken into account by Treasury when it crafts the 2018 national budget.