AN air of resigned pessimism appears to grip the country ahead of Thursday’s 2016 national budget presentation by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament.
Chinamasa is expected to try and tame the civil service wage bill which is chewing the greater chunk of the national purse.
He is also expected to propose ways of reversing the country’s high import bill which has been fuelled by access to cheap South African made products and porous borders which have seen second hand clothing flood the local market.
Adding to the pressure is the need to find money to import the staple maize to feed a hungry population affected by recurrent drought.
There is also the headache of the country’s multi-billion dollar debt burden and shrinking revenues as tax-paying companies either struggle or collapse with most economic activity shifting to the informal sector.
Faced with this herculean task, Zimbabweans say they are expecting nothing short of a high sounding document from the treasury chief come Thursday.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President Takavafira Zhou said he was not optimistic.
“I don’t see Chinamasa performing any miracle because all sources of revenue seem now exhausted,” Zhou said, adding that high level corruption was an albatross around the economy’s neck.
“Chinamasa is in fact going to come up with a political budget that props up and tries to ensure that Zanu PF will have an added advantage in the 2018 electoral race.
“We need someone who will come up with more constructive, realistic and pragmatic, solution and Chinamasa is not that person.”
Similarly, political commentator Ngoni Chigogo feels Chinamasa needs to do more than just throw high digit figures around.
He feels Chinamasa should ensure transparency in terms of the country’s abundant natural resources.
No miracles expected
“I expect Chinamasa to institute a regime of transparency especially in terms of revenue generated through the exploitation of our natural resources; he should restore investor friendly policies,” Chigo said.
He adds that pressure for Chinamasa was not only emanating from a stubborn economy but from spiteful Zanu PF colleagues who have criticised his fresh look-West stance in efforts to unlock lines of credit from US and western controlled lending institutions.Advertisement
Indigenisation and war veterans ministers Patrick Zhuwao and Christopher Mutswangwa have voiced displeasure over Chinamasa’s attempts to charm the hostile west.
Chigogo continued: “It is difficult to be optimistic for now before Chinamasa comes out and tell us about the measures he has up his sleeve on fighting corruption, luring back foreign investors, among the measures.”
MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said Chinamasa’s tenure so far as the Treasury boss has been marred by endless battles to pay civil servants on time, let alone their bonuses.
“It would be expecting too much from Chinamasa if you want him to invent strategies that can bring back the economy on its feet,” he said.
“They have been struggling to mobilise resources to pay civil servants. It is clear that the Mugabe regime is not just bankrupt in terms of money but in terms of ideas.
“There is nothing Chinamasa is coming to present. He will just present something to hoodwink Zimbabweans into believing the Zanu PF regime is doing something.”
Pro-Zanu PF businessman Tafadzwa Musarara said Chinamasa’s budget will be hollow if it does not restore the country’s capacity to feed itself.
“This economy will only grow if we look inwards. We can’t go anyway with our huge import bill currently.
“We have to migrate through the budget from a stagnant to a functioning economy which is self-sustaining and only then we can attract foreign direct investment,” he said.