Yesterday the Finance Minister presented his budget for the coming year. As always it was an underwhelming budget filled with shocking propositions that can only be called anti-poor. The most shocking of these propositions is where he essentially wants to ban the importation of popular cars such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Wish and other similar vehicles. Ostensibly this is all so that he can support the local car industry and protect the environment!

What he said

Mr Speaker Sir, about US$1.3 billion was spent on imported buses, light commercial and passenger motor vehicles from 2015 to September.

This is despite the existence of capacity by the local motor industry to assemble the above-mentioned range of motor vehicles.

Furthermore, due to lack of effective standards and regulation, road unworthy vehicles, which, in some instances fail to meet environmental and safety standards, find their way onto the market.

In line with the NDS1, which underscores value addition, I propose to remove second-hand motor vehicles aged 10 years and above, from the date of manufacture at the time of importation, from the Open General
Import Licence.

In the interim, commercial vehicles such as tractors, haulage trucks, earth-moving equipment and other specialised vehicles used in mining and construction will be exempt from this requirement.

A load of nonsense

This action like the banning of kombis, akin to putting the cart before the horse. Locally manufactured cars are prohibitively expensive and the industry does not make nowhere near enough cars the satisfy local demand. Zimbabwe cannot seriously compare itself with countries such as South Africa that have a well established car industry that comes with financing options and leases that make the cars affordable to ordinary people with a bit of disposable income.

As always the government wants to ban something without providing people with any real viable alternative. Zimbabwe does not even have a car pollution problem and tweaking our environmental laws is only going to hurt our economy without bringing any real tangible benefits. Developed nations such as China, USA and the UK continue to bellow out tonnes of smoke into the atmosphere. Banning a few Honda Fits is not going to change that nor is it certainly going to stop or reverse climate change.

It doesn’t help that the elite are associated with the local car assembly industry. The people who started these industries are lobbying their relatives and friends in government to pass these laws without giving proper thought to how people are faring in the current economy. Not even doctors will be able to afford these locally made cars given how they earn. The fact that there are not many finance options does not help at all.

Again like everything in this budget, it feels like ordinary people are being punished for some unspecified crime when it’s entirely the government’s fault that we are in this mess. This a budget made by the elite without proper consultation or empathy to the plight of the common man.

Potato potato

Some are saying that this is not an outright ban, people can still import these vehicles if they have a special permit. To these we say, we know a ban when we see it. This is a ban and the best that can happen is that some pot-bellied government official somewhere is going to be fraudulently issuing these permits in exchange for bribes.