UPDATE ON ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Cabinet received an update on the Covid-19 outbreak, which the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs presented as the chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Covid-19.
Cabinet was informed that as of October 9 2020, Zimbabwe’s cumulative cases of Covid-19 stood at 7 994, with 6 474 recoveries and 229 deaths. The majority of the cases, 6 612, were local transmissions.
With regard to laboratory testing, Cabinet noted that the notification system at laboratories has been upgraded to communicate availability of results directly to clients by text messaging. This has reduced the time it takes for one to get their Covid-19 test results.
A task force sub-committee has commenced supervisory visits to various ports of entry to assess the effectiveness of Ministry of Health and Child Care protocols and the new quarantine regulations associated with increased human traffic in light of the reopening of the country’s tourism sector.
Cabinet was informed that since the re-opening of both domestic and international flights, port authorities are complying with Covid-19 guidelines and standard operating procedures for the safety of both airport staff and travellers. Airlines that have resumed flights to Zimbabwe include RwandAir, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates.
Cabinet noted that preparations are underway to ensure that schools are ready for Phase 2 of re-opening when Grade 6, Form 3 and Form 5 classes resume.
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS REFORMS IN THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR
Cabinet received an update on the ease of doing business reforms in the agriculture sector, which was presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
The reforms are intended to create an enabling environment that promotes competitiveness in the agriculture sector by improving the time, cost and processes which clients pass through when obtaining regulatory documents. In this regard, the costs of acquiring the necessary health certification documents have since been reduced by at least 40 percent, through amendment of Statutory Instrument 94 of 2016. The compliance certificate now costs ZW$25.00 from the initial US$100.
Furthermore, Statutory Instrument 83 of 2013 was repealed, thereby removing the levy paid by transporters at ports of entry and exit.
Cabinet also wishes to inform the public that a one-stop Permit processing office has been established at the ministry’s head office. The office brings together regulatory agencies which include Seed Services, the Agricultural Marketing Authority and Plant Quarantine Services. Clients no longer need to travel to the Mazowe Plant Quarantine Station to obtain plant import permits. The Veterinary Services and the National Biosafety Authority will soon join the one-stop office. At the Beitbridge Border Post, clients can now pay only once for a range of services, using the ASYCUDA System under the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. The electronic system for issuance of permits will soon become operational, thereby facilitating virtual applications for imports and export permits.
Cabinet further wishes to inform the nation that export permit validity for all controlled agricultural produce has now been increased to six months, with effect from August 2020.
The possibility of merging livestock related levies into one is being considered. In order to expedite issuance of stock clearance for movement, Cabinet encourages farmers to adopt personal brands which facilitate livestock identification and traceability.
Cabinet received and approved the 2021 Pre-Budget Strategy Paper, which the Minister of Finance and Economic Development presented.
Cabinet was informed that the 2021 Budget Strategy Paper constitutes a valuable tool which is intended to guide consultative discussions and sharing of ideas on national priority policies, programmes and projects.
Cabinet noted that prospects for 2021 and beyond are based on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, resumption of global economic activity, a good agricultural season, and enhanced revenue collection. Economic revival will also hinge on sustainability of the foreign currency auction system, trade and tourism resumption, the materialisation of mining investment targets, and the firming of international mineral prices.
It is also anticipated that domestic aggregate demand will recover, that currency stability will strengthen, and that annual inflation will decline.
The areas of focus for the 2021 National Budget are guided by the National Development Strategy: 2021-25 which will be launched by the first week of November 2020. The National Development Strategy is a successor to the Transitional Stabilisation Plan which is coming to an end in December 2020.
The strategy will consolidate the achievements of the TSP as we move towards Vision 2030, of attaining an upper middle income status economy. Guided by the ongoing NDS consultations, the 2021 Budget will focus on critical areas which include the following: inclusive growth and macro-stability; development and supporting productive value chains; optimising value in our national resources; infrastructure, ICTs and the digital economy; human capital development and well-being; effective institution building and governance; and engagement and re-engagement.
WEATHER OUTLOOK FOR THE 2020/2021 SUMMER SEASON AND FORECAST IMPLICATIONS THEREOF
Cabinet received the weather report and outlook for the period 9 to 16 October 2020 which the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry presented, together with the National Preparedness Planning for emergencies related to the 2020/21 rainfall season presented by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works.
Cabinet was informed that some parts of the country received thunderstorms which were accompanied by lightning in some places. Other areas witnessed strong winds and hailstones, which destroyed houses in some places. However, the nation is advised that effective rainfall is usually received around mid-November for most parts of the country. Those farmers who may want to start planting should liaise with their Agritex officers for the best advice.
Regarding the country’s preparedness for emergencies likely to occur during the 2020/21 rainfall season, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works informed Cabinet that with high rainfall expected during the 2020/21 rainfall season, Government is getting ready to deal with anticipated disasters.
This is in view of the widespread damage experienced in the past during Cyclone Dineo in 2017 and Cyclone Idai in 2019. Accordingly, the national contingency plan for the 2020/2021 rainfall season has been crafted to deal with the wide range of hazards expected, which may include flash flooding, severe thunder, wind and hailstorms, landslides and major human and animal disease as well as crop pest outbreaks.
Cabinet resolved to capacitate departments that are critical in early warning systems, and approved a budget amounting to US$32 million for the facilitation of early recovery from potential adverse impacts from the 2020/2021 rainfall season.