After Davos, work cut out for ED

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After “charming” global leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos Switzerland last week, the ball is now in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s court to lure investors harvesting from the goodwill he received.
In his meetings with investors, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was open for business, promising a raft of reforms to lure foreign direct investment.

In his interviews with CNN and BBC, Mnangagwa reiterated his commitment to aligning the Indigenisation Act, to having it only apply to diamond and platinum mining sectors, improving the ease of doing business, fixing decades-long bad decisions, bringing capital to Zimbabwe and addressing property rights.

He also spoke of examining other bottle-necks impeding on the ease of doing business.

However, with the difficulty Mnangagwa showed in answering some of the questions raised, doubts have emerged on whether he would be able to deliver on all his promises.

In an interview yesterday, economist John Robertson said that one question that had arisen from Mnangagwa’s promises was the issue of property rights.
“We have given ourselves an unnecessary handicap, by saying we do not want to see people take individual private ownership of land… that so far has proved un-bankable in the sense that the banks can not lend against leased old land. Under the current lease agreements, the government wants to reclaim control over who gets it next if somebody wanted to sell their lease so the marketability of the leases is limited,” Robertson said.

“That means, the people who want to come in to invest in any kind of enterprise, which requires land, agricultural land, would be discouraged from doing so.”

Robertson said land ownership made it possible for many other activities in the business world, that is why it needed to be seriously addressed.

“It is also not just an agricultural thing, it is also a question of finance, security, motivation, and confidence and all of these things are tied into this issue, so this needs to be dealt with differently from the way the President is speaking of it,” he said.

Robertson said, so far, discussions around fixing the issue of property rights have been met with debate and not action.

Another question relating to Mnangagwa’s promises that has risen is the issue of effecting critical legislation.

By July 2017, under the former administration led by Robert Mugabe, only four out of 15 Bills, that were critical in improving the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe had been approved in a one-year period.

To support the critical Bills, 11 Statutory Instruments had been gazetted out of a total of 13 identified for amendments.

The only amendments made by that time were on non-critical Bills. These were the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets, Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) (No. 7 of 2017) and National Competitiveness Commission (No. 6 of 2017) Acts.–newdday

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