By Anna Chibamu
FORMER Finance Minister Tendai Biti has described incumbent Mthuli Ncube’s recently presented 2023 national budget as a cut and paste document that was prepared in a huff.
Debating the budget in Parliament on Thursday, two weeks after its presentation, Biti said no attention was paid to legislators’ suggestions and the minister rushed the budget.
Biti said legislators had requested a United States dollar budget but were surprised Ncube pegged it in ZW$, making it an empty budget which will be wiped out before June next year.
“The minister was in a hurry to prepare the budget. From my analysis and sentiments, it is a cut and paste document. Take your time to prepare this budget,” Biti said.
“The budget has serious challenges. Transactions in Zimbabwe are now pegged in USDs and a credible budget should be expressed in USDs. He has not listened to our pleas for the USD budget.
“The growth projections by the Regional Economic Forum are at 1.5% and so where is the 3.8% he spoke about in the budget going to come from? The budget is not supported by the current growth. A growth from $1.7 to $4.5 trillion can only be supported by 200% and not 3.8%.
The CCC vice president condemned what he called a parallel budget being run by Treasury, rendering Parliament useless.
“Money is not being disbursed and a parallel budget operates from somewhere. This undermines our work as Parliament,” he said.
“This government is the greatest underminer of the ZW$. You can use the ZW$ but float it.”
He further criticised the auction system introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
“Since June, the Auction has disbursed US$3.6 billion but to date the economy has nothing to show for it. The Zimbabwe -Dutch Auction system has created looters and billionaires. Abolish the gold coin.
“Zimbabwe has a weak currency and does not need this. Preserve our gold. The country has spent over US$18 billion to print coins. Who does that? 200 000 RTGS salary for an MP does not even pay our own rent. Fundamental structural issues need to be dealt with.
“Our economy is extract and export designed and mining and agriculture sectors are the backbone of this economy. Minister, introduce the commodity exchange,” Biti highlighted.
Biti pleaded for a USD budget, timeous disbursements of funds to line ministries, for Ncube to pay special attention to Education and Health sectors.
Binga North CCC MP Prince Sibanda bemoaned the failure by Ncube’s budget to capacitate or strengthen people’s incomes, especially civil servants and called on government to do away with development centred on political expediency.
“Not all infrastructure development leads to economic development. Policy measures are needed to capacitate SMEs. Let us increase the budget on social services,” Sibanda said.
Buhera South Zanu PF legislator, Joseph Chinotimba called on banks to give loans to A2 farmers, warning that failure to do so would be disastrous.
“Banks have not given farmers loans and interest rates are too high. Farmers are not making any profits and a few farmers are benefiting from the government scheme Pfumvudza.
Fertilisers are beyond both A1 and A2 farmers’ reach, raising fears that the country might experience food shortages next year.
MDC Alliance Hatfield MP, Tapiwa Mashakada warned that inflation was still too high from 285% to 268%.
“Do not remove rebate on basic commodities. Food and other basics are too expensive. VAT must remain at 14.5 %,” Mashakada said, adding that the tax collection in Zimbabwe was too porous.
Edwin Mushoriwa, Dzivaresekwa CCC MP, called upon Ncube to migrate to the USD budget and to introduce a wealth tax in the country while his colleague Willias Madzimure mentioned that growth of the industry In Zimbabwe was stagnant, with pathetic roads in the industrial areas and power shortages in the capital.
“We failed to watch the World Cup. No revenue can be collected from a dark city. Our economy is stagnant at the moment,” Madzimure told Mudenda.
The debate is ongoing.