'Govt cannot be an investor'

HARARE - Zimbabwe, like the majority of regional governments, has failed to realise meaningful benefits from the extractive industry due to poor revenue collection systems driven by selfish political agendas, a top Zambian mineral economist has said.

Mathias Mpande said the region had been turned into a paradox of a rich-land poor-people because of the overriding political interferences in the lucrative extractive industry.

He cited the Marikana mining incident which led to the death of 36 miners during a strike in South Africa as an example and predicted a similar situation in Malawi.

“Mineral houses have created poverty instead of wealth. This has been proved by the Marikana strike and it is also looming in Malawi.

“Everything we have is a result of our minerals but unfortunately political figures’ interests have interfered with development,” said Mpande.

Mpande discouraged regional governments from investing in the sector.

“When you are young, you want government to take over mining operations. But I, after 40 years of exposure to the operations, have realised that government cannot be an investor.

“In fact, a good government should devise a good system to collect taxes from the sector and use those for development,” he said, delivering a lecture to regional journalists visiting Zambia last week.

Mpande said African governments should find ways of thoroughly verifying declarations made by mining companies to ensure no party is short-changed.

In Zimbabwe, diamond watchdogs and minister of Finance Tendai Biti are on record complaining about poor revenue remittance by firms mining in diamond rich Marange area.

Most of the firms are in partnership with government mining agency, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).

Biti in August was forced to cut down the 2012 budget from $4 billion to $3,4 billion, blaming poor revenue inflows from diamonds.

The IMF recently reviewed downwards Zimbabwe’s economic growth projections to 4,8 percent from the 9,4 percent projected earlier, blaming policy inconsistencies and poor revenue remittances by mining companies. - Wendy Muperi Recently in Zambia

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