HARARE, April 15– The Zimbabwe government is working on various programmes to formalize operations of the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to increase their contribution to the fiscus through taxes.

Zimbabwe has a vibrant SME sector but most of its operations are not formalized and it is estimated that at least 7.0 billion US dollars are trapped outside the formal banking sector with most of it is believed to be held by the SMEs.

According to a survey conducted by the World Bank here in 2012, about 5.7 million people are working in the SME sector in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) Commissioner-General Gershem Pasi says the government is losing out on revenue as a result of the unregulated operations.

“We are working very closely with the responsible Ministry, also with the Local Government Ministry and also with the Indigenization Ministry so that we do away with the situation where we spend time chasing away traders from where they are selling their wares,” he said here Monday.

“We cannot have Revenue chasing away people in the streets but if we create order, we create areas where people can do honest business, then we start to have revenue inflows because every citizen must be proud to be contributing to the development of the nation by paying their fair share of taxes. But we need to have a creative and innovative way of doing that.

“Before we even talk of harnessing resources from the informal sector, we need to focus on how to nurture these SMEs and provide decent accommodation and operating systems.”

Pasi was speaking at a business symposium held to explain the Indegenization Act to youth, organized by the National Business Council of Zimbabwe.

He said ZIMRA was playing an active role in efforts to formalize operations of SMEs as the sector had become integral to the Zimbabwean economy over the past few years. Programmes that Zimra was pursuing included setting up offices manned by Zimra staff to explain to SMEs Zimbabwe’s taxation laws and systems, he said.

“At the moment we are at a phase where we are finalizing various programmes which are aimed at bringing order and systems to the various sectors of the SMEs so we are hoping that before the end of the year this will be formally launched,” he said.

“We do not want a Zimra that just harvests. We also want to be part of the planting. We want to be part of that growth. We are saying in businesses we should also play a part and make sure that the SMEs grow and become the Samsungs and LGs of Zimbabwe. Of course local authorities play a part and in our discussions with the Local Government Ministry we are also looking for potential areas where decent businesses can be put up,” he said.

“We need to take away the old thinking that SMEs equals to informality. That is wrong. We want our SMEs to be formal so that they can grow into conglomerates which will go into the region, which will go into Africa, into the world.”