by Staff Reporter I Agencies
THE country's black empowerment agency says at least 90 percent of foreign shop owners don't have bank accounts and are hiding away money or smuggling it out of the country, worsening cash shortages in the troubled economy.
National Indigenisation Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) chief, Wilson Gwatiringa, said many of the foreign retailers lack proper identification documents required to open a bank account, leading to hundreds of million dollars staying out of the formal economy, state media reported Friday.
“These operators where operating without bank accounts, they are (also) not registered with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority,” Gwatiringa said
“This means they are not paying tax and that their money is not being accounted for in the banking system.
“We are (now) directing that all the applicants must have bank accounts and must be registered with the tax authority and provide a tax clearance certificate so that they are proper business people who contribute to the economy in a manner that it is expected and that they must pay tax and the funds they handle must pass through the banking system.”
The NIEEB boss said that "raises eyebrows" after government recently allowed foreign shop owners - mostly Chinese and Nigerian nationals - to continue in retail trade, a sector reserved for local blacks.
Last year the agency said foreign retailers had up to January 1 this year to leave the sector.
But Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema this week lifted the ultimatum and commended the foreigners for playing a "very important role" in providing services to Zimbabweans.
“What we are saying is: new licensing in reserved sectors, from January, will be skewed in favour of indigenous people,” said the minister.
“Those foreigners operating in the reserved sectors of our economy should continue. One needs to understand that they have played a very important role in terms of providing services to our people during their time of need.
“We encourage those already in the industry to welcome new players and assist them wherever possible; working with them in the spirit of fair competition, which can only make Zimbabwe a great nation.”
An independent financial research group last year reported that 85 percent of small businesses in the "informal economy," with a turnover of at least $7 billion, weren't paying taxes.