By Anna Chibamu
FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube says he will present the 2022 national budget next week Thursday where he said he will table requests before Parliament for the protection of vulnerable citizens.
He was responding to a question from MDC-T MP Thokozani Khupe on the measures government was taking to mitigate against price increases of basic commodities ahead of the 2021 annual bonuses.
Ncube added his ministry would implement measures to reduce the cost of speculation and dampen arbitrage as he presents his budget next week.
“On the simple cushioning front through this Parliament, we will be requesting an adjustment in the tax bands as I present the budget next week just to make sure that those who are at the lower levels in terms of salaries can be cushioned through a tax relief,” he said.
“We are also going to request that Parliament approves an increased social protection budget which covers things, be it BEAM (Basic Education Assistance Module), health support for the vulnerable, cash transfers as well.
“We will be requesting an increased budget for the support for the vulnerable. So, we will try to attack this issue from different angles in terms of trying to meet the needs of the vulnerable from the price increases.”
Khupe had asked Ncube: “Prices of basic commodities have astronomically gone up beyond what many families can afford and it is very clear that as we move towards the festive season, prices are going to be increasing, even more, higher to the extent that even with bonuses workers will not be able to touch and feel those bonuses.
“What measures are you putting in place to mitigate against these price increases so that at least people can afford to buy something even as they are going to be receiving bonuses?”
In his response, Ncube added: “It is certainly true, but the causes have been largely the gap between the parallel market and the official rate. So, the first order of business is to tackle that gap between the parallel market and the official auction rate,” Ncube explained.
He said Treasury had put in place several measures to cushion ordinary citizens.
“First of all, is to eliminate the gap that exists in the allocations on the (foreign currency) auctions. We did that successfully this week where Treasury stepped in to clear the backlog making sure that there is certainty and credibility around the auction.”
Ncube, however, said the government would not intervene and put price controls as it would be a disaster.
“One thing that we could not do, by the way, is price controls; that would be a disaster. It never works; we make strategies on the shelves. I think these kinds of measures that I have outlined are perhaps the best way to go.”