Investors caution government on the proposed business reforms

  • Say the government should engage business people
  • Say government should look much into issuance of permits

SESUPO RANTSIMAKO

FRANCISTOWN: The Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo says government’s willingness to amend unfriendly business policies is a welcome development as it will help to protect and maintain existing foreign investments.
For several years Foreign Investors have been decrying the lack of a conducive environment for setting up businesses. Investors advised the Minister that they viewed the lack of a conducive business environment as an impediment to foreign investment. The unfriendly business climate was due primarily to immigration policies that were unattractive to foreign investors.
However, since his ascension to the office of the president, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been vocal on the concerns over the ease of doing business in Botswana, promising to review and amend unfriendly business policies that have been counter conducive to luring foreign investors. “My government wishes to confirm that continued dialogue and commitment to support the private sector’s efforts through reforms that will improve the doing of business climate to expand investment and create employment among other things. Cabinet has initiated a number of legislative amendments that support this agenda such as the approval of the Regulatory Impact Assessment Strategy whose objective is to reduce the cost of doing business and improve the regulatory framework. In the last report by the World Bank Botswana’s ranking in the ease of doing business declined from position 71 to 81 out of 190 countries. You will agree with me that this is of great concern and we need to redouble our efforts to attract and make it easier for companies to set up and do business in Botswana,” Masisi revealed recently when addressing High Level Consultative Council.
This week Kenewendo reiterated the president’s position and confirmed that the proposed amendments are aimed at protecting and retaining the existing foreign investments. Kenewendo attributed low foreign investment to Botswana’s policies of doing business. The youthful Minister acknowledged that for a very long-time government policies have chased away investors who wanted to set up business locally. “These proposed amendments will help our country to attract more foreign investors as opposed to the past. We understand that foreign investors have been raising concerns over these policies stating that they are so stringent especially for setting up businesses. Further it has been a challenge for some investors to bring skilled labour from their countries because of immigration laws. Therefore the government’s goal is to bring reforms that will improve the ease of doing business locally,” Kenewendo revealed in an interview.
The new administration is currently visiting neighbouring countries to reaffirm Botswana’s new position on doing business, the Minister revealed, “We are trying to mend our relationship with our neighbouring countries because they have a problem with our system of doing businesses.”
Zuza Properties PTY ltd Managing Director Wei Hou welcomed the development and requested that the government ought to focus on the issuance of work permits, as it is one of the major impediments to the growth of businesses and excellence in service delivery. The Chinese native who has been operating in Botswana for the past 21 years lamented that he has struggled to expand his business to other parts of the country due to lack of expertise. Wei said that his complex machines have been lying idle because the technicians can only be sourced in China. “I had intentions of opening other branches but I am struggling to bring experts here because of the immigration laws. The government has to consider that it cannot create employment alone, but we as the private sector are willing to help but the problem is policies,” Wei decried.
Wei informed the Minister that in his view, projects in Botswana take years to complete instead of months due to the of lack of expertise. Foreigners that insist that the limited number of work permits issued contributes proportionately to the delay in such projects, “This is a cause for concern because in most cases this delay costs the government a lot of money. Giving foreign expertise short term permits does not help the country in any way but instead the government ended up losing a lot of money because when the permits expire before completion of the projects some will return home as they struggle to renew their permits,” observed Wei.
While appreciating government efforts to bring new reforms of the business climate, Francistown based entrepreneur Igbal Ibrahim cautioned government to come up with good reforms that will benefit foreign investors. Ibrahim cautioned that government should engage business people for advice and input, “The government has a tendency of using public servants to make decisions for business people and this is not good because they are not knowledgeable about what is happening in the world of business. So my only advice is that the government should engage business to help them draft these reforms or else they will still come up with something that will be a problem in the end. In most cases these civil servants only pass laws without considering the effects, and in the end they become a challenge to investors because they were approved by someone who is not knowledgeable about the business world.”
Ibrahim wondered how is it possible for the government to issue one half of a couple, a work permit and deny their partner, “Who will agree to invest in a country that separates couples,” wondered Ibrahim citing this as one of the factors that chase away foreign investors.
The Former Francistown Mayor pointed out that investors are worried about losing their money and that therefore government has to initiate reforms that will address these concerns, especially during application of permits and setting up businesses.
The Managing Director of Ghat Investment PTY LTD, Labour Immigration and Trade Consultants Samuel Masunga welcome the proposed amendments saying that they were long overdue. He is confident that the review and amendments of the immigration policies will assist the government in creating employment as well as attracting more foreign investors. “For a long time we have lost lot of foreign investors to neighboring countries because of unfriendly and stringent system of doing business. Therefore once these laws are amended the country will easily attract foreign investors. We are part of the global village therefore there is no need in isolating ourselves with these policies,” Masunga stated in an interview.

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