Thursday, 7 July 2016

IMPORTS BAN CLARIFIED . . . Reprieve as Government reviews restrictions

The Government has come up with a list of goods that are exempt from import restrictions under the recently gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.

The SI tightens screws on the import of basic commodities including food items, building material, furniture, toiletries and cooking oil among other things.

Border officials yesterday said the review of the import regulations follows consultations held between the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and other stakeholders in Harare. Zimra officials at Beitbridge have started issuing notices to travellers on the latest developments.

The review comes days after violent protests that rocked Beitbridge last week, which resulted in the burning down of a Zimra warehouse and the vandalism of 35 vehicles and other key infrastructure in the border town.

Our Beitbridge Bureau is in possession of a circular No 8 of 2016 from the Zimra acting commissioner general, Mr Happias Kuzvinzwa, to all staff, which outlines the administrative arrangements for implementation of the SI.

It says following the publication of the SI on June 17, 2016, submissions from traders and travellers have been received seeking clarification on its application.

Zimra said the purpose of this circular is to clarify the administrative arrangements on the treatment of goods imported under the following categories; personal goods for own consumption and completion of journey, inheritance goods, immigrant goods, returning residents’ goods and diplomatic goods.

It says goods listed under schedule “A” would continue to be cleared under the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and thus are exempt from the requirements of import licence as required by SI 64 when imported by travellers.

One is allowed to bring in these listed goods once per calendar month; coffee creamers/Cremora 1kg, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams — not exceeding 180ml, cereals 2kg, potato crisps — 1 pack of 12 of 125g each, baked beans-1 pack of 12 tins of 340g each, mayonnaise or salad cream – total not exceeding 2 litres, peanut butter 2kg, jams 2kg and canned fruits and vegetables —total not exceeding 2kg.

Other items are ice creams 1litre, cheese 1kg, yoghurts 1kg, shoe polish — 1 pack of 12 of 50 ml or 40g each, juice blends 4 litres, water — pack of 12 of 500ml each, hair products – 6 packets of hair products of weight not exceeding 1.5kg, washing powder 4kg and bar soap — box of 24 bars.

The circular, however, does not cover goods for resale and these will continue to require import permits issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce prior to importation.
Reprieve as Government reviews restrictions
“The applicable duty and taxes must be computed and collected in terms of existing law and regulations,” said Zimra.

Responding to questions during the Buy Zimbabwe annual summit in Mutare yesterday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Mrs Abigail Shonhiwa said it is regrettable that the SI was announced without clarity.

“We’re putting modalities to ensure ordinary travellers at the borders are not affected by the promulgation of SI 64/2016. The SI is for commercial imports and when the instrument was announced there was no communication or clarity in that regard. So, there will be communication perhaps by end of day today,” she said.

Mrs Shonhiwa reiterated that the SI does not mean a ban on importation of listed goods but imposes a licensing requirement for bulk importers.

“The removal of products from the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) implies that a licence will be required to import the listed goods. An institutional arrangement (committee) comprising the private sector has since been established since the announcement of the SI 64/2016. The committee is responsible for advising the Government on the supply gap to facilitate the importation of listed goods should the need arise,” she said.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mrs Shonhiwa, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said in coming up with the SI, the Government was also mindful of Zimbabwe’s regional and international trade obligations.

“We’re also mindful of our obligations on the regional and international fora and these obligations have been made to avoid situations where they will say through SI 64/2016 you closed us off, so we’re also closing you too,” he said.

He said the 6th Buy Zimbabwe summit comes on the backdrop of a number of challenges facing the economy and the Government is implementing measures to foster industrial growth.

Minister Bimha noted that the manufacturing sector was a key pillar in Zimbabwe’s economy as it contributed about 20 percent to the Gross Domestic Product at its peak.

However, due to a myriad of challenges among them unavailability of long-term and affordable funding, as well as the influx of imports facing local companies, he said the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the GDP has declined to about 11 percent.

“The summit is taking place on the backdrop of a number of challenges facing the economy. The manufacturing sector is one of the key pillars of Zimbabwe economy…

“In an effort to address the challenges facing the local manufacturing sector, the Government has implemented a number of resolutions, which include policy reviews and it’s also important to note that imports management programme is one of the measures to allow local companies industrialise through instruments such as SI 64/2016,” he said, adding that the removal of goods from the OGIL is not a permanent arrangement.

In coming up with a list of goods removed from the OGIL, he said the Government was guided by industry requests and prioritising Zim-Asset one of whose key pillars is promotion of value addition and beneficiation. Chronicles

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