HON. CROSS: Thank you Madam Speaker. I do not have any real dispute with the Members who have spoken this afternoon but I would want to question their conclusion that the Bill should be supported. When I listened very carefully to the presentation to the House by the Committee responsible for Industry, I came to the conclusion that the population of the country; the people who were consulted around the country had basically rejected the Bill. I also came to the conclusion that the Committee itself did not support the Bill. I was puzzled why the Chairman then went on to actually recommend the adoption of the Bill to the House. This is because I could see nothing in his report to substantiate his position.
The main thrust of the Bill is to replace the Prices Board with a Competitiveness Board. I am one of the businessmen who suffered under the Prices Board. I controlled the …
Hon. Mliswa having been standing and conversing with other Hon. Members.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, Hon. Cross. Hon. Mliswa, you have been standing there for quite some time. I do not know what you are doing. Do you know that it is not allowed? You are not a Chief Whip – [AN HON. MEMBER: He is his own Chief Whip.] – – [Laughter.] – So who are you whipping over there?
HON. CROSS: Thank you Madam Speaker. I was one of the businessmen in Zimbabwe who suffered under the Prices Board. We were instructed in one year to reduce prices in our retails stores by 50 percent and continue to operate. As a consequence of that, we lost millions of dollars and many major firms like Jaggers, simply closed their doors. Madam Speaker, if we do create a board like this, we have to make sure that it can perform its functions, we have to make sure that it will be effective and will not simply waste money. We now know that the price control does not work but it was a very painful experience.
Quite frankly, I do not believe that this board will make an iota of difference to our competitiveness as a nation because competitiveness is created nationally. It is not a function of a single entity, it is a function of national effort. I, personally do not support the creation of this board. I think we should wind it up and stop spending money on a board that does not carry any real responsibilities.
The main thrust of those of us who believe that this Bill should not be supported is the fact that in so far as the Ministry of Industry is concerned, the Ministry has all the staff and the expertise that are required to perform all the functions envisaged for the board. Creating a board as a parallel structure to do the same thing as the Ministry, to us seems to be a complete waste of time. I think that Parliament should seriously consider this particular aspect. The cost of doing business is a cross-cutting issue and it involves many institutions. The board will not have the authority or the capacity to deal with this multifaceted problem and all the issues that are involved.
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