HARARE, Zimbabwe's Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, says the government is in no rush to dispose of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) without first undertaking comprehensive studies on the importance of each entity to the economy.

Chinamasa's remarks Tuesday follow the recent re-circulation on social media of an outdated prospectus calling for bids in a number of SOEs and parastatals which is said to have generated interest in the investor community.

Struggling and unprofitable, government-owned companies, numbering more than 90, have been blamed for dragging down the economy despite efforts by the central government to improve their performance. For more than a decade, the government has had on its books plans to address the situation pertaining to the future of the state-owned or linked companies.

However, failure to implement thiese plans, coupled with the firms' unprofitability, have led to unrelenting calls for most of the institutions to be shut down or privatised. Some were successfully privatised in the past.

Speaking on parastatal reform recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said while it was academically correct to demand timelines, there was a lot of work, including comprehensive consultations with stakeholders, which needed to be conducted before firm decisions were taken.

Chinamasa said the government was in the process of developing "a proposal for comprehensive reform and rationalisation of the state enterprise and parastatal sector".

"This proposal is being crafted on the basis of input requested from-line ministries in respect of all State entities falling under their respective purview, including evidence-based assessments of the current financial performance status and future potential viability of each entity, together with recommended options for reform, which can include liquidation, privatisation, partial-privatisation, engagement of strategic or joint venture partners or departmentalisation within the parent line ministry," he said.

"In cases where the entity is of a critical, strategic nature and must therefore remain under government control or with majority government shareholding, the line ministry has been directed to develop credible

proposals for effective turnaround of the entity."

However, even before the proposals on rationalisation were finalised, investors interested in partnering government must contact line ministries for the particular State-owned firm they are interested in, the finance minister said.

"Pending the finalisation of the consolidated proposed reform programme and its submission to Cabinet, and so as not to discourage or disappoint those within Zimbabwe and without who are genuinely interested in supporting or participating in the reform process and investigating potential investment opportunities as government moves to rationalise the State Enterprises and Parastatal sector, I would request such interested parties to direct their expressions of interest to the relevant line ministry for consideration and evaluation," he said.