National Budget pie in the sky: MDC Alliance

HARARE - The MDC Alliance, a coalition of seven opposition political parties, has said the national budget presented by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday is not feasible, adding that the projected four percent growth is pie in the sky.

MDC Alliance policy committee chairperson Tendai Biti told a press conference at Harvest House that Chinamasa’s $5,1 billion budget failed to capture how the government intends to deal with the country’s economic crisis in terms of addressing problems bedevilling ordinary Zimbabweans, adding that there is a serious budget deficit that will make it difficult for the Finance minister to meet the projected targets.

“In our view, we think that there are critical drivers of the budget deficit that will make attaining budget cap of four percent not possible and these are the drivers of the budget deficit in 2018.

“Number one, 2018 is an election year, the sum of $132 million was set aside for the election, but you and I know that the election will cost much more than that,” Biti, a former Finance minister said.

The election vote is a far-cry from $274 million demanded by Zec.

“Number two we have a new creature on the scene, this is the enhanced Command Agriculture that now includes livestock and other crops including soya beans.

“We have no doubt in our mind that enhanced Command Agriculture on its own will consume the sum of $1,5 billion. We know for a fact that between June and September of 2017, more than a billion dollars was spent on Command Agriculture, so in 2018, in the context of an election, the enhanced Command Agriculture will be a major driver of the budget deficit,” Biti said.

Chinamasa presented his budget on Thursday, which courted mixed feelings from the industry and various economic players, who said he had tried to minimise government costs, which will work for the positive growth of the country.

During his budget presentation, Chinamasa said that the country’s Gross Domestic Product growth is projected at 4,5 percent in 2018.

But Biti said the government is saddled with a lot of demands and pressures that will make it impossible to achieve the desired target growth.

“Zanu PF has to monetise their election promises, we have got 2013 promises, the building and the creation of 2,2 million jobs, the building of 500 primary schools. Some of these election promises have to be monetised and again they put pressure on the budget.

“And then Zanu PF indiscipline, Zanu PF is not capable of living within its means. They have to monetise the peace, by that I am talking about huge payouts that have to be met; including $10 million which we know will be paid to (former) president Robert Mugabe. So monetising the peace will involve the making of huge payouts inside the system so that the new order can be accepted by the old order.

“In our own view, the budget deficit in 2018 will be much worse than the 15 percent of 2017 and in our view we calculate that the budget deficit will be $3 billion or at least 18 percent of GDP. And if we maintain the budget deficit in the same unacceptable levels as existing now it means the same distortions that are currently playing out will continue evolving in 2018.

Biti said the projected revenue of $5,7 billion is also not achievable considering that most of the country’s industries are closed.

He said the government is only capable of achieving its expenditure, further describing the reforms in the budget as ‘normative lipstick reforms’.”

He said the removal of at least 3 000 youth officers will not assist in any way, claiming there are about 200 000 ghost workers in government.

Biti said as MDC Alliance, they have 10 suggestions that they hope will assist in turning around the country’s economy.

He said there is need to resolve the country’s political crisis, work on the micro-economic stability, reform the financial sector, pursue regional integration, pursue industrialisation, reduce the wage bill, liquidate useless parastatals, monetise democracy and improve international relations.