The government is fast-tracking the release of US$30 million worth of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other resources to insulate the local industry from an anticipated inflow of imported goods.
A fortnight ago, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development allowed those with access to free funds to import basic commodities triggering complaints from the local companies who had been barred from accessing bank loans.
The suspension of bank loans was eventually lifted.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza told The Sunday Mail that the new measures would not collapse local companies as they were short-term interventions. She said:
Government is, therefore, temporarily allowing duty-free importation of these basic commodities effective May 17, 2022 to November 16, 2022 to cushion the public from these temporary challenges. This is, therefore, a balancing act; we continue supporting the local industry as well as ensuring that the consumer is not overburdened by challenges currently facing the economy.
Of the almost US$1 billion SDRs received by Government from the IMF last year, Treasury has earmarked US$30 million for retooling the local industry. Minister Nzenza added:
We believe that this will provide working capital for a number of companies in the country in 2022. In addition, through the National Competitiveness Commission, we are working to enhance the competitiveness of local products so that they can compete effectively with imports.
The SDR funding for retooling is at an advanced stage of being realised. This fund will assist companies in the prioritised sectors in line with the 2022 National Budget. The prioritised sectors include cotton, leather, pharmaceuticals, fertiliser, among others.
The government is convinced that duty-free imports will have a limited impact on local producers because the timeframe will be limited to six months and also because most of the commodities have always been imported.