By Louis Kalumbia
Dodoma — The government is engaging stakeholders in the review of 22 laws under the Ministry of Industry and Trade with the view to improving Tanzania’s business environment.
The review will also allow a smooth implementation of the blueprint for regulatory reforms to improve the business environment, according to Industry and Trade minister Kitila Mkumbo, who tabled his budget for the 2021/22 financial year yesterday.
“We amended two laws through the Finance Act of 2020 and we are preparing another law to protect the local industries and businesses,” said Prof Mkumbo.
The proposed Trade Remedies Act of 2021 will also control importation of products, market distortion by subsidized products which get to the local market at lower prices.
Prof Mkumbo said the proposed law was already submitted to responsible government organs for further action.
Prof Mkumbo’s remarks on review of the laws comes hardly a month since President Samia Suluhu Hassan directed ministers and other government officials to make sure that they improved the ease of doing business in Tanzania.
President Hassan said there was an unnecessary bureaucracy in government departments and agencies when it came to regulating businesses and investments.
She directed the ministers to review and amend laws that hindered investment in a bid to attract more investors. “We want traders and investors to enjoy our business environment instead of discouraging them,” she said.
Prof Mkumbo tabled his Sh105.6 billion budget that had increased by nearly 30 percent from the current budget to finance the priority areas.
The ministry is responsible for stimulating the industrial development in the country as well as attracting investment through creating conducive policies.
According to the minister, the priority areas include promotion and protection of local processing and value-addition industries in agriculture, livestock, fishing, forestry and mining sectors.
The minister said the government will also mobilize development of industries for leather processing, textile and garments.
He named other priority areas as protection and supporting of steel manufacturing industries and steel products.
Friendly investment environment will be given the needed attention especially to investors setting up battery and vehicles assembling factories, he said.
Policies and laws, the minister said, will be harmonized to create a platform in which the business environment would be friendly to people from all walks of life to operate as the government would cooperate with businesses to ensure there was a market for the local products.
He also assured the private sector, which is an engine of economic development, of full engagement so that their contributions in national development would be felt.
He said as of current, the government has scrapped about 232 different taxes, levies and fees that have been hindering business prosperity and investment.
“These measures are aimed at reducing time and costs in securing licenses and other permits to carry business in the country especially for small sized entrepreneurs in the country,” he said.
Debating the budget, Solwa lawmaker Ahmed Salim commended Prof Mkumbo, but advised him that endorsement of multiple policies wasn’t the right road to success, instead he should implement the blueprint.
“The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) should execute its responsibilities and leave other institutions to remain supportive in creating a conducive investment climate,” he said.
Special Seats MP Subira Mgalu (CCM) said TRA and the National Environment Management Council (Nemc) should play their roles in improving the country’s business climate.
She observed that the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) 2019/20 report says TRA spent 182 to 365 days to approve or reject investors’ applications for tax incentives contrary to the Tanzania Investment Act of 1997 which instructed that such responses should be given within 14 days.
“Also, the law demands that Nemc should process and verify investor applications not later than 95 days instead of the present 133 to 200 days, she said, adding that according to the CAG, only 5,016 certificates were issued by Nemc during the year of review from 13,000 received applications.
Geita Rural lawmaker Joseph Musukuma said cooking oil processing firms including the Mopro Factories located in Morogoro depended on availability of sunflower as raw material.
However, he said the government has been closing factories that suspended production due to lack of raw materials, suggesting that an emphasis should be given in mobilizing increased production of sunflowers.
“There is nowhere they are going to get the raw materials. The sin of robbing other people’s properties shouldn’t fall on your hands, Mr Minister,” he warned.
The vocal politician said after opening the earlier seized investors’ bank accounts, the government should give them a grace period of six to one year in order to enable them to re-establish financially.