Agriculture preliminary budget allocation risk stalling major projects

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By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter

PARLIAMENTARY portfolio committee on Land, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development has urged the treasury to make an upward adjustment to the ministry’s 2024 budget allocation saying the ZWL $2.8 trillion is too little and will be eroded by inflation.

The Ministry of Finance and Investment Promotion allocated ZWL$ 2.8 trillion to the agriculture sector and its parastatals against the initial bid of ZWL $54.9 trillion.

Presenting outcomes from the stakeholder consultations at this year’s pre-budget seminar, held under the theme ‘Consolidating Economic Transformation’, in Mount Hampden, Thursday, Agriculture portfolio committee chairperson Felix Maburutse said the ministry was being underfunded.

The ministry’s 2023 budget was originally set at ZWL $362 billion and was later revised to ZWL $1.6 trillion.

“Treasury provided the Ministry and its parastatals with an expenditure ceiling of $2.8trillion compared to the Ministry bid of $54.9trillion,” said Maburutse.

“The Ministry, together with its parastatals and agencies, are expected to fit within the expenditure target (ET).

“The Ministry is being underfunded, given the inflationary environment in which we are operating in the budget will not be adequate to fund the Ministry for the whole 2024 financial year,” said the chairperson.

According to Maburutse, agriculture is the mainstay of Zimbabwe and as such to fully realize the potential of the Ministry there is need for adequate financial resources to allow the ministry to deliver on its mandate.

The committee noted that the sustainability of funding has not been considered as seriously as it should resulting in certain projects being left hamstrung.

The chairperson, who is also Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Chivi South said their sector also faced the challenge of the unavailability of key material inputs on the market.

“Expenditure trends were negatively affected by delayed budget releases, delayed Treasury cash transfers and the recent Treasury requirement for due diligence on most expenditure line items.”

For 2023, the revised budget is 458% more than the original budget due to major increases in the Presidential Input Program among other factors.

“There has been a noticeable improvement in expenditure towards dam construction and other PSIP projects.

“Other disbursements went towards employment costs that have increased from ZWL 9.5 billion in 2022 to ZWL 97 billion in 2023.

“The Ministry has an approved establishment of 15 484 employees with 12 736 in post as of 30 September, 2023. In terms of manpower, the challenge is the incapacitation of field workers to execute the Ministry’s mandate rather than the headcount of workers” Maburutse said.

The chairperson added that for some technical positions like veterinary doctors, staff turnover is rather high and replacement processes take considerable time and effort.

“This is the budget that funds operations. As at 30 September 2023, the budget had been increased from $ 57 billion to $ 90 billion.

“The main budget increase cost driver is the Presidential Input Supplies, which accounted for 52.2% of the total expenditure.”