The first National Business Conference chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn brought forward several issues the business community felt was hampering the growth and transformation plan the EPRDF government set out to achieve in the next couple of years.
Though the issue of dividend tax and corruption gripped all attentions, other pertinent issues were also raised and discussed.
The PM together with other government representatives gave answers to issue that concerns policies but also gave ear to many of the complaints raised.
Among the issue were the recurring foreign currency shortages that are ‘crippling businesses’.
It was stated that despite assurance given by the government on the availability of foreign currency, it is still a burning issue for the business community as they said the banks are not able to serve them adequately.
“We have submitted our application for foreign currency to the banks, but it has been months and we are still with no reply. Our shipments are stuck in Djibouti for that reason,” said Ms. Gizeshwork Tessema Managing Director of GIZE PLC, a Freight Forwarding & Shipping Company.
Hard currency shortage was significantly observed since September 2012 although the government insists that there is no deficiency in hard currency.
Continuing on another issue that has distressed the public, Ms. Gizeshwork raised the Ponzi scheme that concerned thousands of would be home owners. Some businesses in the real estate sector have not been serving suitably their clients but rather are “laughing at them believing they are entitled to do what they wish.” To solve the real estate crisis seen in the country, a national committee where any Ethiopian can take part must be established proposed, Gizeshwork. “The government should interfere and a national problem solving committee must be established soon,” she said.
Recognizing the need to tighten the regulations by which real estate companies are operating, a draft proclamation indicating that license renewal of real estate developers must be based on the company’s performance has been tabled for discussion by the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction in April this year.
The draft proclamation also limits the real estate development’s license to serve only for the time frame until a specific project is completed as per the schedule proposed by the developer.
Another issue which affects many in the business community was the Inland Revenue Authority’s tax auditing system. Stating her example, Ms. Gizeshwork explained how painful the system is, as the office sends auditors year after year to audit their books and when they find that all is correct they leave without a letter acknowledging their mistake, she said. “The office should respond in writing and close the file when they find that they are mistaken. They are not always right; sometimes the business community can also be right.”
Following on a participant’s complaint that it takes two years to get a share company formation signed at the Document Authentication and Registration Office (DARO), Ms. Gizeshwork also brought the performance of the office into question, explaining that the business community is not adequately served by the office.
“The major problem I would say, is with the Document Authentication and Registration Office. The office has been praised for doing a good job in the past and it had a good reputation. But now it looks like it is only working to serve big companies. The office facilitates the signings of agreements between parties without even checking if they have proper registration and permit from the Trade Ministry, to turn their company into a share company,” exclaimed Gizeshwork.
The Director of Document Authentication and Registration Office on his part says that his office has always and continues to serve the public properly.
“We don’t forcefully bring people to our office to sign. When people come to us, obviously they are in agreement on what they want to sign. Our job is to carry that out and authenticate their document so that they can proceed to getting a trade license and such from other concerned offices. Those who made the complaint on the office must have misunderstood what our office does,” Yerga Tadesse told Capital.
When it comes to the real estate issue, a problem that is seen these days in the country, “a national problem solving committee must be established soon,” reiterated Gizeshwork.