Lovemore Lubinda

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development throughout this week starting from Monday 12 September 2016 will be conducting the 2017 national budget consultations around the country.

According to information from parliament, these will be aimed specifically at particular target audiences, but, are also open to all interested citizens. The objective of the consultations is to receive input from the target audiences for the 2017 National Budget.

The information gathered will be considered by the committees and will form part of their presentations to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development at the Pre-Budget Seminar and to the National Assembly. The consultations have potential from the stakeholders, through the committee to influence the national budget priorities and the economic policy direction.

Written submissions and correspondence are also welcome and should be addressed to The Clerk of Parliament and marked for the attention of the appropriate committee sent through email, sent by post, or hand delivered to Parliament using the Kwame Nkrumah entrance.

The consultations came high on the heels of the delayed Mid-Term Fiscal Policy for 2016 that was finally presented to parliament on Thursday 8 September by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa.

In his review statement Chinamasa also acknowledged the deteriorating economic environment in the country by revising the 2016 projected economic growth rate downwards to 1.2 percent from the 2.7 percent that had been forecasted earlier for this year.

Zimbabwe’s economy is being hamstrung by ballooning consumption expenditure as opposed to capital expenditure the panacea for economic growth. The employment costs swallowed $1.638 billion of revenue between January and June 2016, and that translated to 96.8 percent of total revenue.

In an attempt to balance this precarious economic situation, Chinamasa announced that the government will be suspending civil servants bonuses for two years, as well as putting 25 000 jobs on the fence. The minister also noted that this will translate to the employment bill falling to 76 percent which is still not sustainable for economic development and debts repayments, hence the need to trim the payroll figures from 298 000 to 273 000 by end of 2017. This will culminate to annual savings of $155 million, says the minister.

The move was received with anger from public servants who are up in arms, accusing their employer (the government) of acting in bad faith by not engaging them prior to the announcement. Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander recently told Reuters news agency that they will not accept this move.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe’s Takavafira Zhou also reacted angrily when he told Studio 7 after the announcement, equating the move by government as tantamount to a declaration of war on its workers.

Initially, Minister Chinamasa had projected the 2016 National Budget at $4 billion, based on anticipated revenues of $3.85 billion, a projected domestic financing of $150 million, and recurrent expenditures at $3.685 billion.