THE Minister of Industry and International Trade Samuel Mumbengegwi branded “unpatriotic” Zimbabwean companies and businesspersons who opt to establish head offices outside t
he country, and accused exporters of not remitting foreign earnings to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
Mumbengegwi who reduced the 2003 ZimTrade Exporters Conference on Wednesday into a political orientation meeting said business should understand the relationship between economic patriotism and economic nationalism in domestic and international trade.
He said: “The richer businesspersons become, the more ambivalent they become and decide to relocate their head offices to Johannesburg, London and many other places.”
But exporters told the minister that the exchange rate was not favourable and exporters were unable to access foreign currency from banks and this severely curtailed their operations.
“Companies establish offices in other countries in a bid to attack regional competition and consolidate their business presence and it is not linked in any way to unpatriotism,” said a business executive present at the conference. “In any case the country was benefiting from foreign earnings arising from these ventures so Mumbengegwi should stop attacking these companies which invest across the borders.”
Eric Bloch, an economist, said the minister’s comments were misguided and uncalled for as most businesses are now preoccupied with survival before they consider profiteering.
“Mumbengegwi’s comments were misguided and uncalled for. Companies’ expansion into other countries is in compliance with Sadc protocols which Zimbabwe has ratified and the government should be seen to be encouraging business instead of attacking them,” Bloch said.
He added exporters were concerned that the government misappropriates most of the foreign earnings business remitted to the central bank towards Zesa and Noczim but does not make them available to the exporter despite their entitlement to the forex.
Another economist, John Robertson, lamented the minister’s failure to recognise business as people who have tried extremely hard to continue operations in the country during the economic turbulence.
On externalisation of funds, Robertson said the regulation has been operating since UDI but there has been not any conviction as the government concentrates on rhetoric without action.
“Foreign accounts of government officials should be liquidated and all that forex repatriated to Zimbabwe because they are the only citizens with access to foreign currency from the RBZ instead of blaming business,” Robertson said.
The minister told exporters the government was considering more export incentives but would not be drawn into revealing details.
Companies such as African Banking Corporation Holdings, Econet and Dairibord are doing well in foreign markets and the country has been receiving dividends from these and many other companies that have ventured into foreign markets.
The ZimTrade exporters conference grouped together exporters who aimed at highlighting survival options in light of the worsening economic situation.