Govt bursts budget by $1,2bn

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s stone-broke government last year exceeded its expenditure by a jaw-dropping $1,2 billion, with foreign travels chewing nearly $45 million, new figures reveal.

Figures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) released on Friday, showed that in the period running to November 2016, while government had budgeted to collect revenues amounting to $3,1 billion, expenses overshot collections to close the month at $4,3 billion.

Vehicles, plant and mobile equipment grew to an astronomical $14,9 million against a $959 000 budget, while a paltry $920 650 was spent on building acquisition instead of the earmarked $7,5 million.

During the 11 months, domestic travel gobbled $6 million against a budget of $5,3 million.

There was fiscal revenue under performance in the first 10 months of 2016, with fiscal revenue falling 9,8 percent year on year to $2,8 billion.

However, the data also highlights government’s wage expenses marginally went down on the back of Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s civil service reforms.

In his 2017 budget, Chinamasa proposed an 8,9 percent decrease in fiscal expenditure to $4,1 billion in 2017, with the public sector wage bill projected at $3 billion while $520 million will be directed towards capital expenditure.

Against this, Zimbabwe’s fiscal deficit is projected at $400 million in 2017 from $1 billion recorded in 2016.

Zimbabwe’s economy is in the throes of a debilitating crisis which has been worsened by shortages of cash and declining production levels.

Zimbabweans continue to experience pain and chaos at banks as they desperately seek to withdraw their money.

This is despite the government’s recent introduction of bond notes in its desperate bid to improve the availability of money.

Last month, one of the government’s advisers, Ashok Chakravarti, revealed that the country only had $304 million in hard cash in circulation, including $73 million in bond notes.

“If you look at comparative studies from other economies cash to deposit ratio should be between 10 (percent) to 12 percent. If an economy has got less than 12 percent, it faces a liquidity crisis … We need $900 million in cash to have adequate liquidity,” he said.

And as Zimbabwe’s economy continues to die, the World Bank last year downgraded the country from its list of improved economies to the unflattering tier of struggling countries, as Harare’s political and economic turmoil continues to escalate.

In its publication titled Africa’s Pulse, the Bretton Woods institution said the country had failed to register significant economic growth over the past few years.

“Zimbabwe’s fiscal deficit has deteriorated as remedial actions have been limited and this has resulted in the country registering a negative correlation between the cyclical components of government consumption and GDP,” it said.

Meanwhile, economists also say average incomes in Zimbabwe are now at their lowest levels in 60 years, with more than 76 percent of families having to make do with less than $200 a month.This, they add, means that poverty levels have reached “numbing levels”, amid indications that the situation will worsen in 2017, as the government continues to demonstrate its inability to fix the rot.

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