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Tough time ahead for 'zvakarongeka' Ncube

by Staff reporter
27 Oct 2022 at 06:13hrs | Views
EARLY last year Finance and Economic Development minister, Mthuli Ncube made the infamous statement "zvakarongeka", loosely translating to "all is in order" as far as the country's financial reserves were concerned.

Ncube's bragging during a television show hosted by Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa came as a shock to many Zimbabweans who, at the time, were struggling to make ends meet, including restive civil servants, who had declared incapacitation and were unable to report for duty.

In June this year in an off-the-cuff interview with NewsDay after a post-Cabinet briefing, Ncube also emphatically declared that Zimbabwe was not facing an economic crisis.

"What crisis? We are performing well. We have put measures in place to fight inflation, people should not panic, everything is in order, zvinhu zvese zvakarongeka (all is well)," Ncube said.

However, Ncube's peers in government were not singing from the same hymn book with him nor were they uttering the same sentiments.

During the just ended pre-budget seminar held in Harare, several Cabinet ministers bemoaned low budgetary allocations.

Ncube is expected to announce the 2023 budget next month amid protests over his failure to adequately fund the 2022 ministerial allocations with the Information ministry, for instance, expected to get a paltry 6,3% of its bid in the 2023 national budget.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget conducted public consultations ahead of the budget and a key take away was that solid action was required to address Zimbabwe's economic crisis and improve the living conditions of the ordinary citizenry.

During a plenary session and presentation during the 2023 National Pre-budget seminar Information minister, Monica Mutsvangwa raised concern over Ncube's insufficient budget allocations for next year.

Mutsvangwa said their aim was to complete the ministry's digital migration programme in three years, but given the budgetary support of $1,5 billion allocated against a bid of $23,6 billion, they would only manage to procure one transmitter.

"Under National Development Strategy 1, my ministry is expected to have completed the digital migration by 2025, but given the current inadequate allocation it would take us 30 years to complete the project instead of three years," she said.

"That means we will have communities in our country that will not be covered by transmission and being denied access to information. We will also be going against the good tenets of universal access to information for the marginalised communities.

"Without adequate and timely funding there is a limit to what we can do as a ministry in fulfilling our mandate. The Zimbabwe digitisation project requested $23 647 000 from Treasury and was allocated $1 500 000 for transmitter installation, studio modernisation and maintenance of broadcasting infrastructure."

While making a presentation at the 2023 Parliament pre-budget seminar Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri blamed the problems being faced by the army on poor budgetary allocations over the years, saying the funding was failing to sustain soldiers' welfare at the barracks.

"Let's invest in our defence forces and my ministry is facing a lot of challenges, and we have inadequate accommodation to keep our forces in the barracks," she said.

"If we are adequately provided for, I can assure the nation that we will keep ourselves in the barracks. What we see in the current situation is that our forces are renting accommodation in the townships, and they are often given names because of inadequate and indecent accommodation — let alone transport, which they also hire. They are insulted on a daily basis. They sometimes go without food and even uniforms, and these are constitutional requirements.

"Their food items have been reduced. Sometimes they have only sadza and beans. This is a serious situation we are faced with. My fear is that these are young people who sacrifice to create this conducive environment for us to enjoy peace. We appeal for funding from you."

Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe also said the situation was equally bad for the country's police service.

"The police force situation is very desperate," he warned. "You should actually be thanking the police that we still have sanity and tranquillity in our country because of the situation these men and women are going through."

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Emma Ncube presented a report stating that rural schools had the highest pupil-to-teacher ratio. The report also said there were shortages of doctors and nurses at district hospitals.

"The 2023 national budget should focus on improving the welfare of all civil servants (consider non-financial benefits) to improve service delivery and reduce corruption. The PSC should recruit adequate teachers, police, doctors and nurses to ensure enough deployment, especially in rural areas. Recruitment priority should also be given to social welfare workers across the country," Ncube said.

Proportional representative Sipho Makone said the Treasury chief should timely disburse money to ministries before funds are eroded by inflation.

Tourism deputy minister Barbra Rwodzi said: "The country is in a bad state hence to transform we need serious rehabilitation by 2023. There is requirement for serious funding. We can achieve serious economic growth if we are funded adequately."

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus (ZWPC) Goodlucky Kwaramba said: "The 2023 budget should consider financially capacitating companies that can produce sanitary wear locally.

"The ZWPC reiterates that the 2023 budget must charge another sin tax on cigarettes and alcohol which should be ring-fenced towards financing of cancer treatment and procurement of cancer equipment (radiotherapy and chemotherapy facilities) so that they are decentralised from Harare and Bulawayo."

Meanwhile, Ncube said expenditure to August 2022 stood at $930,4 billion, against a target of $765,2 billion.

He said cumulative revenue collections to August 2022 stood at $870,6 billion, against a target of  $684,9 billion.

Fiscal balance to August 2022 stood at a deficit of $59,8 billion.

With less than a month left before the Finance minister presents his 2023 national budget, only time will tell if the economic fundamentals will once again allow him to be bullish and bombastic about Zimbabwe's economic prospects in the coming year considering the telling complaints by his peers in  Cabinet.

And the beckoning 2023 general elections will undoubtedly make things less easy for the Treasury boss who needs to also budget for the plebiscite, an extra strain on a meagre financial base.

Since the coming in of the new dispensation under the stewardship of President Emmerson  Mnangagwa, cost of living has been rising leading to the deterioration of the standards of living of the populace.

Source - Newsday Zimbabwe