The import restrictions circus

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were the Minister of Industry and Commerce, but I repeat myself (taken from Mark Twain quote on Members of Congress)

TradersI have just read with utter amazement that the chief clowns of this circus at Ministry of Industry and Commerce are saying that the recently announced import restrictions only apply to corporates and not individuals who are still allowed to bring in items for personal use without an import licence, and therefore it’s okay. That is ridiculous logic.

Now the issue on these ill-timed import restrictions is really about their negative impact  on small informal business traders. We are saying that these restrictions have a serious negative impact on income generating for those cross border traders who need to survive.

It is estimated that as much as 200,000 people are currently cross border traders. They want to bring in decent quantities for resell in order to remain viable and these restrictions stifle that sector of the economy which is now the major source of income for many. The government is therefore taking away their bread and butter by restricting imports and requiring import licences. Imagine having to issue 200,000 import licences and then add corruption on top!

So saying that individuals can still bring in items for personal use does not address the problem created by these restrictions. Why is that so difficult to understand?

In my opinion these restrictions are ill timed for now until such time as we have revived the economy, created better jobs for the people and revived our local capacity to produce. Then import restrictions can come in but through a clinical and phased approach backed by research and not sentiment.

I reiterate again that lets stop importing maize from Mexico and Zambia because we can grow it here. That would make a huge difference to our trade deficit but let’s plan that properly for the next season.

Come guys we can think better than this!

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]


Post published in: Economy
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