Home » Governance » Parly to Set Up Social Economic Zones

CABINET will deliberate on a strategic document outlining modalities of setting up Special Economic Zones by May 16 after which moves will be made to start attracting investors in the areas set aside for the purpose, a Cabinet Minister has said.

SEZs, which are enshrined in Zim Asset, are supported by the World Bank, which promised to help attract investment, promote export-oriented growth and generate employment.

It is envisaged that the SEZs would create an environment conducive for foreign investors who would enjoy a number of concessions that will make it easier to conduct business.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said the document would be produced by a committee made up of experts from various Government departments, the World Bank, United Nations, local industry and legislators.

He was speaking while making his remarks on the way forward at the end of a two-day SEZs workshop held in Harare.

The consultative workshop convened by the Office of the President and Cabinet ran under the theme: “Promoting Transformational and Inclusive Growth”. It discussed legislative and institutional frameworks as well as infrastructural requirements and the role of Government in facilitating the establishment of SEZs.

“The roadmap, which I think we should travel after this workshop, is to constitute in the first instance a committee of experts to draft a strategy paper that will inform the Government on the process,” he said.

“I want to present the paper to Cabinet by May 16, so by that time we should have Cabinet’s decision on a way forward of this issue.”

Minister Chinamasa said there must be a political commitment to setting up the SEZs and the committee will have to present a simple easy to understand document for Cabinet to buy in the idea.

Minister Chinamasa said it was critical to carry out feasibility studies to establish what the country is worth.

“After the Cabinet paper what I think is critical is to carry out feasibility studies to identify champions, identify our areas of competitive aantages. We need to identify the winners. I think to us that’s going to be critical,” he said.

Minister Chinamasa said his strategy was to secure funding to do feasibility studies.

The minister said the Mines and Mining Development Ministry wanted between US$5 million and US$10 million for geological surveys.

Former Export Processing Zones general manager and Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said from the experience gained from the EPZ programme, which was operational in Zimbabwe from 1996 to 2006, SEZs have the potential to change the economy.

“The EPZ programme was put in place to accelerate economic growth in the country. It was deliberately tailored to promote activities that created additional employment opportunities, facilitated technological transfer and generated foreign currency earnings through the establishment of export oriented value adding activities,” he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said from 1996 to 2006 the country had 352 approved projects and 205 became operation.

“Investment in operational projects was estimated at US$172 million, of which 21,6 percent of the approved projects were attributable to foreign direct investment and the programme generated 32 512 jobs,” he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said by December 31, 2005, EPZ cumulative exports stood at US$1,15 billion.

“It is important to note that at that time, the EPZ programme represented only 10 percent of the total number of companies that were operating in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said incentive programmes such as SEZ could be self funding through licensing and dedicated services as the EPZ authority was at 92 percent self funding by 2005.

He said there was need for total buy in by all Government departments involved in facilitating the programme.

Minister Chidhakwa said legislation should also be synchronised timeously to facilitate the SEZs and simultaneous amendment of all statutes to enable the setting up of the SEZ.

The minister outlined some of the country’s examples of areas of potential SEZs including diamond cutting and polishing and the Lupane-Luvimbi natural gas cluster.

He said knowledge based industries such as aircraft engineering, call centres and financial centres were other opportunities for SEZ.

Source : The Herald