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Zim firms predict gloom – NewsDay

BY KUDZAI KUWAZA
MORE than three quarters of businesses across various sectors of the economy have said the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe was unfavourable as a result of policy inconsistencies and limited financing, according to a new survey.

The findings were revealed yesterday at the launch of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) inaugural State of Industry and Commerce Survey, which was undertaken to provide information on industry performance.

The performance relates to capacity utilisation across all sectors of the economy.

The survey also looked at business confidence, competitiveness and new business establishments from year-to-year.

The survey was carried out in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Zimbabwe.

It said 76% of respondents said the ease of doing business remained unfriendly in 2021.

However, 11% of respondents said the doing business environment was conducive, while 13% were neutral.

For the year 2020, 92% of the respondents said the ease of doing business was unfavourable with just 5% saying the doing business environment was conducive while 3% were neutral.

“Respondents were asked to indicate the challenges weighing down on the ease of doing business in the country. According to the survey results, the major challenges relate to limited availability of credit (91%), unpredictable policy landscape (82%), multiple licence requirements (73%) and red tape in public offices (67%) among others,” the report
revealed.

“Zimbabwe lacks patient capital which is critical for the much-needed recapitalisation and retooling.”

The survey noted that over the past three years, the promulgation of a plethora of satutory instruments (SIs) had unintended destabilising effects on businesses.

It said the SIs were introduced with neither consultation with the business community nor impact analysis.

It also noted that despite the establishment of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, red tape and multiple licences remained major inhibitors to doing business in Zimbabwe.

“More reforms are still needed in the licensing regime and efficiency in public service delivery,” the report observes.

The report revealed that sectoral capacity utilisation ranged from 10% to 80%, the average being 47,5%.

The sectors with relatively high levels of capacity utilisation include agriculture, hunting, fishing and forestry (80%), transport and storage (77%) and information and communication (70%).

The sectors with low capacity utilisation were arts, entertainment and recreation (10%), accommodation and food service activities (21%) and financial and insurance activities (27%).

Among the drivers of capacity utilisation for the high performers, the report reveals, is the existence of readily available markets, the availability of capital and local raw materials.

COVID-19 restrictions, lack of capital and skills contributed to the low capacity utilisation for sectors such as the arts and tourism.

Launching the report, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the survey revealed the urgent need for government to source more foreign currency especially for those sectors with low capacity utilisation.

As to the concern of the plethora of SIs, Ncube said it was all part of efforts to fine-tune the economy.

“Government is working hard to address the challenges to create an enabling economic environment,” he said.

“It is not yet uhuru. We still have a long way to go but we ask for discipline from business to be able to meet our objectives.”

  • Follow Kudzai on Twitter @kuwazakudzai

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Today’s coronavirus news: Pfizer says third dose neutralizes Omicron variant; Science table to issue recommendations on rapid tests – Toronto Star

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

9:15 a.m. Poland and several other countries in Central and Eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccinations rates than in Western Europe.

In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day for most of November and on several days in December, and the daily death toll remains over 1,100. Ukraine, which is recording hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the mortality rate in Poland, while lower than it was than in the spring, recently climbed to more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked. On Wednesday, the country reported 592 more virus deaths, the highest number of its current wave and bringing the pandemic death toll to nearly 87,000 in the nation of 38 million.

Intensive care units are full, and doctors report that more and more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but then suffered strokes.

8:37 a.m. The Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to have spread across South Africa’s northern border with Zimbabwe reporting record daily cases and its highest ever test positivity rate.

While the numbers have also been boosted by a jump in government testing, the fact that one in three tests are positive for the pathogen signals strong community transmission in the country.

“It is very clear that the inevitable is now here,” Agnes Mahomva, the co-coordinator of Zimbabwe’s national COVID-19 task-force, said in an interview.

8 a.m. Six Middlesex-London Paramedic Service employees have been placed on unpaid leave for not complying with its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, officials say.

The policy gave the service’s 401 full- and part-time staffers, including paramedics, superintendents, administrators and managers, until Nov. 1 to disclose their vaccine status.

“These (six) employees have been placed on an unpaid administrative leave of absence pending compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination policy,” Colin Heise, the service’s professional practice commander, said by email.

The remaining staffers — 99 per cent of the workforce — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

7:20 a.m. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said initial lab studies show a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes the Omicron variant, results that will accelerate booster shot drives around the world.

A booster with the current version of the vaccine increased antibodies 25-fold, providing a similar level as observed after two doses against the original virus and other variants, the companies said Wednesday.

Blood plasma from people immunized with two doses of the vaccine has neutralizing antibody levels more than 25-fold less versus omicron than against the original strain of the virus, the companies said.

“It’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose,” Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement. The initial data show a third dose could offer still offer enough protection from disease, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said.

The data are preliminary, as the partners continue to study the new variant.

7:05 a.m. Ontario’s science advisory table on COVID-19 is set to release new recommendations on rapid testing, amid growing calls for the tests to be made more widely available.

Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, says the group will publish a science brief on the issue Wednesday.

He says it would make sense “from a scientific perspective” to use rapid tests more often, particularly in schools, workplaces and other congregate settings.

Juni says it’s unclear at this time how the tests perform with the new Omicron variant of the virus, but he says they are effective with the Delta variant, which continues to account for the bulk of cases in the province.

Opposition legislators have been calling for the province to distribute rapid tests more broadly, particularly in schools.

6:15 a.m.: Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Ontario’s elementary schools are at the highest point in the pandemic, surpassing the third-wave peak when skyrocketing cases forced schools across the province to pivot to online learning after the April spring break.

The province on Tuesday reported 219 active COVID outbreaks in elementary schools, a number experts say signals the need for greater protections to keep students in school and prevent further learning losses and disruptions for families.

And with some public health units already identifying the new and potentially more transmissible Omicron variant connected with schools, experts stress additional public health tools, including take-home COVID tests for students, are critical at this point in the pandemic, especially with elementary students only recently eligible for vaccines.

Read the full story from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio and Megan Ogilvie here.

6:13 a.m.: New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 7,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday as hours-long lines snaked around testing stations in the capital Seoul amid a worsening virus crisis.

More than 5,600 of the new 7,175 cases were reported in Seoul and the nearby metropolitan region, where a delta-driven surge has led to a shortage of hospital beds and strained an already depleted health care workforce.

The country’s death toll exceeded 4,000 after 63 virus patients died in the past 24 hours. The 840 patients in serious or critical conditions were an all-time high, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

“Last week, the level of daily increase reached 5,000 and today the tally came out over 7,000 – the viral spread has been fierce,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, Seoul’s No. 2 behind President Moon Jae-in, said during a virus meeting.

“The greater capital region is where 80% of the infections have been concentrated. While we have been working with hospitals to increase the number of hospital beds (designated for COVID-19 treatment), we have been unable to catch up with the speed of transmissions,” he said.

Officials have been scrambling to administer booster shots and they are monitoring a larger number of mild cases at home to preserve hospital beds for patients who are sicker.

Wednesday’s daily infection tally was 1,800 more than the previous one-day record of 5,352 set on Saturday, illustrating how the delta variant has ripped through the country after it loosened social distancing rules in November to address economic concerns.

6:12 a.m.: Poland and several other countries in Central and Eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccinations rates than in Western Europe.

In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day for most of November and on several days in December, and the daily death toll remains over 1,100. Ukraine, which is recording hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the mortality rate is Poland, while lower than it was than in the spring, recently has caused more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked. Intensive care units are full, and doctors report that more and more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but then suffered strokes.

The situation has created a dilemma for Poland’s government, which has urged citizens to get vaccinated but clearly worries about alienating voters who oppose vaccine mandates or any restrictions on economic life.

6:11 a.m.: The reproductive number, an indicator of how fast the coronavirus spreads, almost doubled in South Africa last month as an outbreak of the omicron variant took hold.

The measure rose to 2.55 on Nov. 27 from 1.37 on Nov. 17, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a report on Wednesday. The number means each infected person on average transmitted the disease to another 2.55 people.

The data is the latest indicator of how quickly the virus has spread in South Africa since the onset of omicron, which was first detected last month.

The gauge was at 3.06 in the commercial hub of Gauteng, the epicenter of the outbreak that’s home to Johannesburg and Pretoria. The number more than doubled to 1.63 in the Western Cape, where Cape Town is located, and rose to 2.18 from 1.23 in the northern province of Limpopo. The rate rose in eight of nine provinces, falling slightly in the sparsely populated Northern Cape.

South Africa announced the discovery of omicron on Nov. 25 and daily infection numbers have since surged. International markets have been roiled and travel bans imposed on South Africa and its neighbours.

6:11 a.m.: A leaked video that shows staff members in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party is adding fuel to allegations that government officials flouted coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else.

For days, the prime minister’s office has been trying to rebut reports that Johnson’s staff held a December 2020 office party — complete with wine, food, games and a festive gift exchange — when pandemic regulations banned most social gatherings.

According to multiple British media outlets, the party took place on Dec. 18, when restrictions in London prohibited most indoor gatherings, and a day before Johnson tightened the rules even further, ruling out family Christmas celebrations for millions of people.

The prime minister’s office said in response to the footage broadcaster ITV aired late Tuesday that “there was no Christmas party. COVID rules have been followed at all times.”

6 a.m.: Canadian business owners are bullish on the economy’s rebound from COVID-19, with a new report finding investment plans and sales expectations for next year exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Yet the bright outlook for 2022 is clouded by a persistent labour shortage and supply chain disruptions that are expected to continue in the new year, the Business Development Bank of Canada found in its annual survey of business owners.

The Canadian Entrepreneurs’ 2022 Investment Outlook released Wednesday said 84 per cent of businesses are planning to maintain investments or invest more in their business over the next 12 months.

6 a.m.: The Bank of Canada is set Wednesday to announce what will happen to its trendsetting interest rate with job and inflation figures on the rise.

The central bank’s key interest rate target has been at the rock-bottom level of 0.25 per cent since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 and is unlikely to be raised as part of the last scheduled rate call for 2021.

The bank has said it won’t raise the rate until the economy has healed enough to handle an increase.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 5.4 per cent in the third quarter, almost in line with the bank’s expectations, and job gains in November lowered the unemployment rate to within 0.3 percentage points of what was recorded in February 2020 just before the pandemic.

At the same time, inflation remains above the central bank’s target range of one and three per cent.

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Scholz succeeds Merkel as German chancellor, opening new era – The Zimbabwe Mail

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) attends a television debate in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Mang/Pool



BERLIN (AP) — Olaf Scholz became Germany’s ninth post-World War II chancellor Wednesday, opening a new era for the European Union’s most populous nation and largest economy after Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure.

Scholz’s government takes office with high hopes of modernizing Germany and combating climate change but faces the immediate challenge of handling the country’s toughest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers voted by 395-303 to elect Scholz, with six abstentions — a comfortable majority, though short of the 416 seats his three-party coalition holds in the 736-seat lower house of parliament. That’s not unusual when chancellors are elected, and some lawmakers were out sick.

Scholz exchanged fist bumps with lawmakers from across the political spectrum before German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier formally appointed him as chancellor. He was due to be sworn in by the speaker of parliament later Wednesday.

Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators’ gallery as parliament voted. Lawmakers gave her a standing ovation as the session started.

Scholz, 63, Germany’s vice chancellor and finance minister since 2018, brings a wealth of experience and discipline to an untried coalition of his center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are portraying the combination of former rivals as a progressive alliance that will bring new energy to the country after Merkel’s near-record time in office.

“We are venturing a new departure, one that takes up the major challenges of this decade and well beyond that,” Scholz said Tuesday. If the parties succeed, he added, “that is a mandate to be reelected together at the next election.”

The new government aims to step up efforts against climate change by expanding the use of renewable energy and bringing Germany’s exit from coal-fired power forward from 2038, “ideally” to 2030. It also wants to do more to modernize the country, including improving its notoriously poor cellphone and internet networks.

It also plans more liberal social policies, including legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes and easing the path to German citizenship while pledging greater efforts to deport immigrants who don’t win asylum. The coalition partners want to lower the voting age in national elections from 18 to 16.

The government also plans to increase Germany’s minimum wage to 12 euros ($13.50) per hour from the current 9.60 euros, which Scholz has said “means a wage increase for 10 million.” And the coalition also pledged to get 400,000 new apartments per year built in an effort to curb rising rental prices.


Scholz has signaled continuity in foreign policy, saying the government would stand up for a strong European Union and nurture the trans-Atlantic alliance.

The three-party alliance brings both opportunities and risks for all the participants, perhaps most of all the Greens. After 16 years in opposition, they will have to prove that they can achieve their overarching aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions while working with partners who may have other priorities.

Greens co-leader Robert Habeck will be Scholz’s vice chancellor, heading a revamped economy and climate ministry. The government’s No. 3 official will be Christian Lindner, the finance minister and leader of the Free Democrats, who insisted that the coalition reject tax hikes and looser curbs on running up debt.

The incoming government is portraying itself as a departure in both style and substance from the “grand coalitions” of Germany’s traditional big parties that Merkel led for all but four years of her tenure, with the Social Democrats as junior partners.

In those tense alliances, the partners sometimes seemed preoccupied mostly with blocking each other’s plans. Merkel’s final term saw frequent infighting, some of it within her own center-right Union bloc, until the pandemic hit. She departs with a legacy defined largely by her acclaimed handling of a series of crises, rather than any grand visions for Germany.

Scholz told his party last weekend that “it was difficult” governing with Merkel’s bloc, which his Social Democrats narrowly beat in Germany’s September election. He criticized the Union bloc’s “this-far-and-no-further conservatism.”

The agreement to form a coalition government between three parties that had significant differences before the election was reached relatively quickly and in unexpected harmony.

“If the good cooperation that worked while we were forming the government continues to work, it will be a very, very good time for the tasks that lie ahead of us,” Scholz said. He acknowledged that dealing with the pandemic “will demand all our strength and energy.”

German federal and state leaders last week announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people. In a longer-term move, parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate. Germany has seen daily COVID-19 infections rise to record levels this fall, though they may now be stabilizing, and hospitals are feeling the strain. The country has seen over 103,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic so far.

Merkel has said she won’t seek another political role after shepherding Germany through a turbulent era. The 67-year-old hasn’t disclosed any future plans but said earlier this year that she will take time to read and sleep, “and then let’s see where I show up.”

___


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