BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, says Zimbabwe’s continuously unstable political and economic environment renders it unsuitable to enjoy meaningful partnerships with both local and international private players.
Ambassador Laing was speaking in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com Thursday on the side lines of an on-going training workshop for local officials on the administering of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) co-facilitated by her country.
“The single biggest issue for investors is confidence and predictability and the government still frankly has a bit of a hurdle to overcome now; it needs to have a better track record so that investors can be reassured that BIPPA for example can be adhered to,” said the British envoy.
President Robert Mugabe’s regime stands accused of breaching international treaties such as BIPPA (Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement), which has often seen its militant supporters invade farms protected under the global statute.
Quite recently, the privately owned mobile phone service provider, Telecel Zimbabwe, has come under siege from government which ordered its closure for operating without a licence.
Lately, it has instituted plans to elbow out potential investors keen on buying the troubled firm.
Rowdy Zanu PF youths February this year blocked investors from the United Arab Emirates who wanted to pour in $45 million to build the Shawasha multi-purpose business complex in Mbare.
The embarrassing incident forced then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to postpone what was supposed to be a ground-breaking ceremony.
Government has also ordered the half dozen diamond mining companies in Chiadzwa to combine their operations, a directive that has been described by observers as tantamount to bullying them.
Under such circumstances, Laing said, Zimbabwe walked a tight rope and would find it difficult to convince private players to devote their monies into any meaningful projects with government.
Said the British envoy: “When they (investors) make an investment and there is a contract; the contract would be adhered to; if there is a dispute, they know that the rule of law will prevail and they will be able to resolve that dispute.
“It is true that Zimbabwe does not have as yet the best track record which is one of the reasons more investment is going to neighbouring countries like Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. So Zimbabwe is underperforming in terms of investment on investment.”Advertisement
The British envoy said Zimbabwe stood to lose out on potential opportunities to improve its public infrastructure under PPPs if the current political instability was to persist.
“For that to happen”, she said, “Two things need to come together; the good micro economic environment and also a commitment to the rule of law, good governance.
“If these two things can come together then there is no reason why PPPs cannot work in Zimbabwe as they work in other countries.
According to the 2014 World Bank ease of doing business index, Zimbabwe has the worst investment climate in Southern Africa.
The country was placed at number 171 out of 189 countries in terms of protecting investors.
The negative perceptions were attributed to the troubled country’s militant and often unpredictable indigenisation policies.