Government was forced to impose restrictions on imports of basic goods after discovering a Chinese wheelbarrow arriving at the border at $1,98, a government official has claimed.
Industry and Commerce permanent secretary Abigail Shonhiwa told a Buy Zimbabwe traders summit that the some goods were landing at the border at ridiculously low prices that calculating duty on them would not make their prices competitive
Shonhiwa said wheelbarrows were arriving at the border at $1,98, forcing government to demand special permission in the importation of selected products.
“A look at what has been coming in has been a revelation of what is coming in, it’s not only the quantity of goods that are coming in, but also how much these items per unit are landing at our border before duty,” she said.
“I tell you, I saw an invoice for a wheelbarrow for $1,98, $1,98 for a wheelbarrow huh? This is the kind of thing that we are dealing with. The other prices are ridiculous, how do you compete with that?
“How do you compete with a wheelbarrow that is $2 or that is $5?
This comes as government said on June 17 it was suspending imports of products including bottled water, furniture, building materials, steel products, cereals, potato crisps and dairy products, most of which arrive via South Africa.
Shonhiwa said government was now evaluating what would work better for the country between tariff increases and import restrictions.
“I know there has been an argument that why don’t we use increased tariffs. I think you also know that at almost every budget, we have increased tariffs, so whilst we measure their effectiveness and how easy it is to police them, we are also looking at trying to control movement of goods quantitatively,” she said.
Shonhiwa said special clearances for the importation of the restricted commodities would also help appraise government on who is importing what and in what quantities.
She said ultimately, government was intent on stopping the country from being a total retail economy by giving policy space to industry to start manufacturing and stop US dollar flight.
“We have been using this tool (import restrictions) over a period of time with the aim of giving policy space to local manufacturers,” Shonhiwa said.
She said the country was also particularly being targeted by other countries because it was trading with hard currency, which is a much sought-after reserve currency by most countries.
“In the final analysis, goods are being brought to Zimbabwe to get the green back. That is a fact,” Shonhiwa said.