By Leopold Munhende
FORMER Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Thursday laid into Treasury chief Mthuli Ncube, dismissing his claims that Zimbabwe had recorded an $800 million budget surplus since the introduction of his Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).
The MDC deputy president was contributing to debate on the Supplementary Budget presented by Ncube on 1 August.
Biti argued that Ncube could not claim to have recorded a surplus when Treasury was yet to fully disburse all funds allocated to different ministries and departments under the November 2018 budget.
“Another myth is the much-hyped myth about the surplus. The Minister speaks of a surplus of $800 million, Honourable Speaker Sir, with great respect, it is a misnomer, an error, a wrong, an omission to speak of a surplus and to boast of a surplus when you are using cash account in the context of expenses and expenditure that accrues…it is not possible in the middle of a year or in the quarter of a year to speak about a surplus when you are using cash account.
“When you are repressing allocations and disbursements to ministries and ministries are starving; there are no drugs in hospitals, there are no textbooks in schools and there are massive deficits in virtually every Ministry, you cannot boast of a surplus when you have kept the tap closed and you are not distributing even the Statutory allocations that you pronounced in your budget,” said Biti.
“However, more importantly, Honourable Speaker, we know that the surplus is a myth because the Supplementary Budget itself provides for anticipated revenue of $14 billion and expenditure of $18 billion. So, the budget itself is budgeting for a deficit of $4 billion which is at least 4% of the total budget. So, there is in fact no surplus to talk about.”
Ncube has introduced austerity measures contained in his TSP which he has given credit for the surplus claims.
The Cambridge University graduate’s belt tightening policy has been blamed for growing levels of poverty within the country amid threats of protests by the opposition and civil servants constantly fighting with government over low salaries.
Ncube has maintained that there is a surplus and told journalists that the surplus will be used to finance social services and humanitarian assistance for areas such as Chimanimani that was hit by a fatal tropical cyclone early this year.
Biti was Finance Minister between 2009 and 2013 and claims to have stabilised Zimbabwe’s economy under a shaky coalition between then political foes former President Robert Mugabe and the late former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.