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Zimbabwe tax agency owed over two billion dollars in unpaid taxes

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe tax agency ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) said Wednesday it is owed 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in unpaid taxes mostly by companies.

Acting Commissioner General Happias Kuzvinzwa said the tax agency will soon start attaching properties of tax evaders, news agency New Ziana reported.

“In some countries they send tax dodgers to prison and after serving, you will still be required to pay the tax, but in Zimbabwe we have not yet gone that far,” Kuzvinzwa said.

It was a “betrayal” of trust vested in companies by the people if they failed to pay their taxes, he said.

“Customers diligently pay Value Added Tax when they purchase goods but when it comes to remitting, they do not,” he said.

In the past two years, ZIMRA has given companies owing the tax collector a special dispensation to pay up or stagger payments without facing any penalties.

Few companies, however, responded to the dispensation.

Companies have slammed the tax agency for being “too harsh” on them at a time they are struggling to survive in a difficult economic environment.

ZIMRA has been struggling to meet revenue targets in recent years due to shrinkage of the formal sector as a result of the poor performing economy.

In over a decade, the Zimbabwe government has largely relied on taxes to finance the national budget, hovering around 4 billion dollars annually for the past few years, after Western donors cut budgetary support over accusations of human rights abuses.



Zimbabwe accuses West of propping opposition ahead of 2018 elections

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba on Wednesday accused Western powers of propping the country’s opposition ahead of the 2018 elections.

The 93-year-old will most likely meet strong opposition from his former deputy in both government and the ruling Zanu-PF party Joice Mujuru and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T as the two and other opposition figures mull a coalition to end his rule.

The EU on Tuesday invited civil society organizations (CSOs) to submit proposals on projects “to promote democratic participation, good governance and accountability as well as dialogue amongst the different stakeholders in the country,” pledging 5.3 million U.S. dollars to the cause.

It said the call was launched in the framework of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) National Indicative Programme (NIP), signed between the EU and the Zimbabwean government in 2015, which marked the resumption of full development cooperation between Zimbabwe and the EU.

However, Charamba, who is also Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, while remarking on the EU action, said the government was aware of machinations by the West to support the opposition ahead of the elections.

“The beast is in heat again. We are slowly inching towards elections and the westerners are back with their mischief, except they don’t know we are watching,” Charamba said.

“We are also aware of their involvement in other areas, including fomenting instability in the labor market,” he told the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

The country is currently being rocked by strikes in the health sector where government hospital doctors want their conditions of service improved, while other civil servants are agitating for industrial action following government’s failure to pay their 2016 annual bonuses.

Zimbabwe and the EU in February 2015 signed the NIP joint cooperation strategy funded by the EDF, under which the EU would provide development assistance amounting to 270 million dollars to the country.

The NIP envisaged support to civil society in their participation in public policy formulation, transparency and accountability, among other areas.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the EU have been frosty since the early 2000s when the African government expropriated white-owned farms and parceled them out to formerly landless blacks in often violent incidents that left several white farmers dead or wounded.

The EU has since then been accused of supporting opposition parties in a bid to remove the country’s long serving President Mugabe from power.


Zimbabwe seeks funds to repair roads damaged by rains

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) --- The Zimbabwean government said Wednesday it needed 100 million U.S. dollars to urgently repair roads that have been damaged by heavy rains.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo told a press conference that some sections of the country’s road network had become impassable after bridges were washed away by the heavy rains in the season 2016-17.

He said the situation had been compounded by the downgraded Cyclone Dineo that hit southern parts of the country last week, causing substantial damage to roads and bridges.

The washed-away bridges had seen some rural communities being cut off from essential services, resulting in them travelling longer distances to get to places that are “just next door”.

Some villagers were improvising and using ladders to cross over damaged bridges that were still standing, the minister said.

The Ministry of Finance was leading the resource mobilization process and had so far raised 14.5 million dollars, while the national road authority, ZINARA, was in the process of raising 50 million dollars from banks for the road repair works, according to the minister.

“Road authorities have commenced on the first phase of urgent and emergency works, and will continue until all emergencies have been addressed,” the minister said.

He said they hoped to complete urgent road repair works in 30 days and all the other roads, including those in urban areas, in six months.

The government in January declared pothole-littered Harare roads a “state of disaster” and said it would move in to assist the council to repair them.


Zimbabwe needs to improve infrastructure to attract tourists: survey

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe needs to improve its tourism infrastructure and solve the problem of high pricing to make it a competitive destination in southern Africa, according to findings of a recent study whose results were released Tuesday.

According to the report by state news agency New Ziana, the Zimbabwe-Visitor Exit Survey (VES) showed that the majority of visitors coming into Zimbabwe were visiting friends and relatives (31.1 percent) while transit visitors accounted for the second largest proportion with 29.5 percent.

Visitors coming for leisure were third at 18.2 percent followed by religion, an emerging form of tourism in Zimbabwe which accounted for 5.1 percent.

The survey was carried out in 2015-16 by the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency on behalf of the Tourism Ministry. It recommended that there was need for the country to address the issue of high pricing to make Zimbabwe a competitive destination.

The survey also recommended the improvement and development of robust tourism infrastructure and continuous training of frontline police, immigration and customs officials in order to improve the reputation of Zimbabwe as a hospitable tourist destination.

The major objective of the VES was to collect information on tourism expenditure to be used in the compilation of the country’s inaugural Tourism Satellite Account.

Zimbabwe received 2.1 million visitors in 2015 up from 1.2 million in 2009. The country is targeting to reach 5 million visitors bringing in 5 billion dollars in tourism revenue by 2020.



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