Major ammendments planned in export law

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Africa Moyo —
Government’s efforts to reduce bottlenecks impacting on the export business under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI), have gained fresh impetus after the appointment of a taskforce to monitor the implementation of the identified 22 statutory reforms.

The reforms are being undertaken under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI), which was launched by the country’s premier export promotion body, ZimTrade, in conjunction with the Office of the President and Cabinet. The RRI was launched in December 2016 to deal with challenges confronting exporters in timelines of 100 days.

Overall, the objective is to make local products competitive on the international market, and consequently generate more foreign currency for the country. Recently, the Attorney General was seized with aligning the amendments in line with the constitution and other related laws. It is understood that four “major statutory reforms” have been implemented, but the Business Weekly could not establish the laws by the time of going to print.

ZimTrade board chairman Lance Jena could not be drawn into revealing the four laws that have been implemented, but confirmed a lot of work is being done to fast-track implementation of the laws.

“The RRI committee finished its work and we now have an implementation taskforce that was set up to monitor the rate of implementation of the identified bottlenecks.

“For instance, if we identified an SI (statutory instruments) and recommended that it be amended, the implementation taskforce is now working with the relevant ministry to make sure that things start happening.

“It is our hope that by this side of 2017, we will conclude and adopt most of the recommendations,” said Jena.

Once the taskforce has finished working on the amendments, it would report back its findings at a workshop. Two thematic committees on Export Capacity and Export Regulations, Permits, Procedures and Processes, identified 22 laws and recommended that they be reviewed. Amendments to SI 8 of 1996 have scrapped the need to have permits for non-strategic products. A provision under the same instrument to have a temporary export permit on equipment and implements for exhibitions has since been removed.

SI 350 of 1993 will be amended to remove the Ministry of Agriculture export permit on non-strategic products; including scrapping the need for the Agricultural Marketing Authority’s annual registration fees of between $500 and $1000. To circumvent unnecessary costs of doing business, the Plant Pests and Diseases Act 19.08 would be amended to reduce the cost of registration of treatment facilities (wood packaging material, processing premises).

likewise, the amendment of SI 94 of 2016 will reduce the cost of phytosanitary certificates by 50 percent to $5. There are also plans to amend SI 39 of 2009 to scrap the road access fee to avoid duplication with toll fees. Currently, people bringing vehicles into the country – including imports mainly from Asia – pay the road access fee and go ahead to pay toll fees, which is seen as an unnecessary cost which pushes up the cost of doing business.

It has also been recommended that SI 186 of 2012 be amended to reduce the cost of a Certificate of Pharmaceutical Products from the current $150 while SI 154 2001 is earmarked for amendment to reduce the Bill of Entry cancellation fee from $50 to $10. Some successes have already been achieved with other reforms, and some Government departments such the Environmental Management Agency wrote to ZimTrade in June, indicating it was complying with the drive to ease the export business bottlenecks.

Earlier in May, the RBZ had issued exchange control circular no. 5 in May spelling out a number incentives aimed at improving the ease of doing export business. Similarly, the RBZ has announced that the integration of automated system for customs data (Asycuda) and computerised export payment exchange control system (Cepecs) were at an advanced stage. Asycuda is a system designed to help the country automate customs processes on the importation or exportation of goods and compile accurate trade statistics

Jena said the massive reduction in roadblocks since the intervention by the army recently, was welcome and dovetails with ZimTrade and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s aspirations of having hassle free highways. The successful implementation of the statutory reforms is expected to boost the uptake of investments under the Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

He said coming up with a cocktail of incentives such as tax holidays and free importation of production equipment would be insufficient to retain FDI if laws related to exports remain unchanged. Government has target the creation of three SEZs in Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare. The SEZs Bill was signed on October 30, 2016 and the main focus is on employment and income creation to improve the standards of living of citizens.

ZimTrade’s advocacy work targets to eliminate everything that militates against the ease of doing export business. Between 2015 and 2016, local exports grew by $1 billion from $2,5 billion, and the statutory reforms currently underway are seen as critical in boosting export revenues. Imports also declined from $6 billion to $5 billion riding on the positive impact of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which restricted the importation of products that can be made locally such as cooking oil.

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