The Government has defended its decision to control the importation of specified goods that are locally produced saying this was meant to curtail externalisation of the United States dollar and to protect local industry.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Parliament during a Questions without Notice Session yesterday that the country was losing a lot of foreign currency through the importation of goods that were locally produced and of better quality.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce recently gazetted import controls under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, featuring products drawn from across industry.
Those intending to import some of the specified goods would have to apply for licences and justify cause for importation of such commodities.
Some of the specified goods are coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams, plastic pipes and fittings, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice creams, cultured milk and cheese.
Some MPs asked Minister Chinamasa to explain the rationale of introducing the regulations claiming that it was tantamount to banning importation of the said goods.
They argued that the control would negatively affect the informal sector.
“The Statutory Instrument doesn’t ban the importation of commodities,” said Minister Chinamasa.
It merely removes those items from the Open General Import Licence. For you to import those goods, you need to apply for a licence.”
Minister Chinamasa said the Government was committed to supporting the informal sector through facilitating that players access credit, develop their skills and through infrastructure development.
“Currently our challenges with revenue collection arise from the fact that the economy now is highly informalised and it presents problems.
“We’re importing more than what we export. A lot of the hard-earned foreign currency that we make is going to buy chicken because we’ve over legalised foreign currency usage.
“A lot of those items, which have been removed from the Open General Licence, are locally produced. The goods locally produced are of higher quality and it will be good for this House (Parliament) to support our local industry, our local manufacturers and our local economy. Please support the Buy Zimbabwe campaign,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He said the Government was aware of the capacity of the local industry, hence importation controls on the same products.
Minister Chinamasa reiterated that the Government was not planning to reintroduce the Zimbabwean dollar through Bond Notes. He said Bond Notes were meant to enhance money circulation and to incentivise local exporters.
Minister Chinamasa said one of the major reasons (for introducing Bond Notes) was the liquidity crunch because some people did not deposit their money in banks.
“Why we’re incentivising exporters is because our only source of foreign currency is exports and Diaspora remittances. Diaspora remittances aren’t coming in a structured way, so we’ve to fall back more primarily on exports. So, we need to incentivise exporters,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa said the Government was also coming up with mechanisms to curb corruption though it would not be an overnight exercise