HARARE, April 9– It is the government, which is excluded from paying duty, which is the biggest importer in Zimbabwe, accounting for more than 60 per cent of the over 7.0 billion US dollars in imports thecountry recorded last year, says Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) Commissioner-General Gershom Pasi.

Zimbabwe has continued to have a skewed balance of trade position in the past five years as imports continue to outpace exports, with the current trade deficit amounting to more than 3.0 billion USD in 2013 and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, in his 2014 National Budget, had criticised Zimbabweans for importing trinkets in what he described as “irrational exuberance”.

Howver, Pasi told the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs here Tuesday that the government was in fact the largest importer, bringing into the country goods worth more than 4.0 billion USD last year.

Defending ZIMRA following accusations that it was sleeping on the job as the economy was not realising much from Customs duties while import levels were high, Pasi said: “Of the 7.0 billion USD, 4.1 billion USD were government imports which do not pay duty,” he explained. “Government imports do not pay duty but they are declared.”

Pasi did not, however, specify what the government imported but legislators expressed concern that some Ministers might be importing personal goods disguising them as “government goods” to avoid paying duty.

Other import duties were also affected by bilateral agreements which reduced taxation levels on imports, said Pasi. “Applying import duty on the whole (import) bill is unfair and it also perhaps is designed to give an impression that Zimra is not working,” he said.

Zimra revenue collections amounted to 29 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year with some analysts saying the organization was among the most efficient tax collectors in the world. “We are not doing too bad a job given the shrinking economy,” Pasi said.