Prominent economist Prosper Chitambara has warned that the proposed Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill will hit the economy hard.
He made the remarks at the weekend during a workshop on the Bill in Kadoma by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST).
The event was meant to capacitate members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Social Welfare and other stakeholders on the provisions of the Bill.
The Bill amends the PVO Act and the government says it will curb money laundering and PVOs participation in politics.
It proposes harsh penalties, including jail time of up to one year for perceived offences.
Analysts say the Bill gives the government and the minister responsible for CSOs, and trusts, excessive powers which will enable them to interfere with the operations of these bodies.
Chitambara said the Bill had the potential to disrupt non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) activities and financing. He said:
In many countries, NGOs are filling the gaps in public programmes and services that States have failed to perform or provide owing to limited fiscal space among others. It is evident that a successful NGO community is essential for effective and efficient civil society that organises local participation which is essential for sustainable development.
Creating an enabling environment for NGOs to operate is recognised as being critical for the attainment of the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. The role of NGOs is even more important in low-income countries where the fiscal space is limited.
Owing to the huge financing gap in productivity-enhancing and poverty-reduction sectors of the economy such as health, education, social protection, and water and sanitation, the country has had to rely on donor financing from international NGOs and development partners.
Chitambara said NGOs were an anti-corruption watchdog, hence disruptions of their activities would fuel graft.
He added that the contribution by NGOs to tax revenues ranged from US$4 000 to US$35 000 per month depending on the size of the NGO.
Chitambara also said a lot of the gains that have been registered as key development indicators have been on account of the partnership between the government and NGOs.
Chitambara said the law would further restrict political and economic freedom in the country.
Law experts say the most worrying thing was that the bill is vague giving room for manipulation by interpreters and law enforcers.
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