RESTIVE legislators this week blasted political squabbling and policy confusion in the coalition cabinet as concern increased over country’s faltering economy with the 2012 national budget now off the rails, rendering initial growth projections overly optimistic.
The MPs demanded the cabinet come up with serious policy interventions as they debated last week’s Mid Term Fiscal Policy review in which Finance Minister Tendai Biti admitted the US$4 billion revenue projection for the year would fall 10 percent short and cut growth forecast from the initial 9,4 percent to 5,6 percent.
“We have failed to come up with indicators just to say there will be something in two years and in two years this country will have enough energy. Yet Cabinet meets every week, Ministers are in their offices every day and one wonders what is really happening,” said Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda (Zanu PF).
“We are appealing to the Government to be serious in addressing the economic situation in the country. We cannot allow for politics to continue taking centre stage in the country.
“The (Finance Minister) has attempted to do something like trying to repair a battered vehicle - the chassis is burnt, the engine is oozing out oil, the radiator is leaking, it has no cap, it is boiling, it is showering water out, the tyres are worn out, it has no lights, it has no starter, the window screen is shattered, the boot, the bonnet and all doors are secured by wire.
“The vehicle will not go anywhere and the first thing that the unlicensed driver wants to do is to fix the number plates. The economy has got a host of problems and sincerely we have to start with first things first.”
Zhanda said it was inconceivable that the government had failed to address perennial energy supply problems which have hit the country’s productive sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
“How do we turn around the economy with energy shortages? Mining, agriculture . . . all need energy. We are dealing with an economy that hinges its turnaround on agriculture and mining all need energy yet this was not addressed.
Zimbabwe does not generate enough electricity to meet its needs and efforts to plug the gap with imports from the region have been undermined by the lack of funds. Supplies are currently being rationed between both commercial and domestic users.
The legislators said political squabbling in the cabinet had taken precedence over sensible economic planning, citing the public spat between Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and his Industry counterpart Welshman Ncube over ZISCOSTEEL which has stalled a deal to resuscitate the collapsed company.
“The minister brought a budget that was approved by Cabinet and then after the presentation another minister comes the following day in newspapers lampooning the same budget,” said Bulawayo East representative Ms Tabitha Khumalo (MDC-T).
“What are you saying to us backbenchers, what are you saying to the ordinary people when we expect you to be a team.”
Biti admitted that the cabinet was largely dysfunctional and told MPs his mid-term fiscal policy review was effectively a “crisis statement”.
“There is absolutely no exaggeration at all the inclusive Government is dysfunctional; it has failed to transcend the make-up of party politics and, as a result, half-baked statements continue to be made, illiterate statements continue to be made, cheap points scoring continue to be made in the end who suffers, is not the person who sits in Cabinet but the ordinary people,” he said.
Biti said Zimbabwe needed foreign direct investment adding the cabinet had agreed key changes to the country’s indigenisation legislation under which foreign companies cannot own more than 51 percent of their local operations.
Critics claim the policy, mainly pushed by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, will harm prospects of attracting much-needed foreign investment.
“I went to the Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cde Robert Mugabe and we agreed on this and we are going to implement it because without FDI we cannot grow this economy, we cannot create jobs FDI is the oxygen we need,” Biti said.