Property rights: a long way to go

Ensuring formal property rights is a fundamental aspect of doing business. If the formal transfer of property is too complicated or expensive, it pushes more and more businesspeople into the informal sector. Zimbabwe ranked 82 out of 174 economies for registering property in the Doing Business 2011 Report published by the World Bank.

The report charts the necessary procedures that a business must undertake in order to purchase property from another business and transfer the property title into the new owner’s name. It looks at the number of different procedures, the time taken to complete the transfer and the cost to the company.

Compared to its neighbours, Zimbabwe ranks higher than South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. With only five procedures that take an average of 31 days and cost a standard business 8.5 percent of the property value, it does not appear too difficult to buy property in Zimbabwe.

There are six procedures to undertake in South Africa and although they take an average 24 days to complete, the cost to the business is 0.3 percent higher.

In the five years that the Doing Business report has charted Zimbabwe’s statistics, the country has reduced the cost of transferring property significantly. In 2008 a business had to fork out 25 percent of the property cost.

In 2010 this reduced to 10.1 percent and this year it has dropped to 8.5 percent. In spite of this, the country has not improved its ranking in this area and has actually moved down a grade since last year when it held 81st position.

The five steps necessary to register property here are: the preparation of a draft deed by the conveyancer, an application for a capital gains tax clearance certificate, payment of capital gains tax, application for a rates clearance certificate from the local authority and the lodging of the transfer documents with the Registrar of the Deeds office.

In countries such as New Zealand and Norway there is no cost associated with registering property and the necessary procedures take no more than a day or two. So although Zimbabwe ranks relatively favourably compared to its neighbours, it still has a long way to go.

Post published in: Business

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