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Supplementary budget is inhumane and toxic: Chikwinya

Mbizo legislator Settlement Chikwinya says the supplementary budget presented by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube on the 1st of August is inhumane and toxic because it fails to safeguard the social net.

Chikwinya said Parliament cannot pass a budget that does a 500% increment of power tariffs, 100% increment in all other services but gives a 48% increment on civil servants’ salaries.

The legislator added that government cannot boast of a surplus when there are shortages of essential drugs and other amenities in hospitals, there is an 18-hour load shedding every day and there is no fuel in service stations.

He also said if there is indeed a surplus there was no need for governing coming to Parliament with a supplementary budget.

Below is what Honourable Chikwinya said in the National Assembly during debate of the supplementary budget:

Honourable Settlement Chikwinya: It is fundamentally right for the Hon. Minister of Finance to declare a surplus.  The Hon. Minister of Finance has bragged and said he is the first Minister of Finance to be able to declare a surplus.  We are declaring a surplus when our social services have gone down when people are dying out of lack of medicine in our hospital when our roads are full of potholes when we cannot pay for electricity and our houses are going for more than 18 hours without electricity when there are fuel queues.  So, what kind of surplus do we have in a budget?  The fundamental question is therefore Hon. Minister, despite all the social ills which you have created with your austerity for posterity principle, if you have a surplus, why do you need a supplementary budget?

You are bragging that you have a surplus why then do you need a supplementary budget for?  You are like a father who goes to the bank and says I have enough money in my account but your children have got nothing to wear and nothing to eat, are you a real father?  You must be able to safeguard the social net; this budget is not safeguarding the social net.  We cannot pass a budget that does a 500% increment in ZESA, 100% increment in all other services but a 48% increment in civil servants’ salaries, that is an inhumane budget and a toxic budget –

Hon. Speaker, this budget is overlapped by over taxations. My biggest problem with the Hon. Minister of Finance is that when he is speaking to this Parliament, he is not seeing representatives of Zimbabweans, he is speaking to IMF and the Briton Woods institutions, and I beg the Hon. Minister to come back and face realities of Zimbabwe.  I beg the Hon. Minister to be able to relive the life of a woman in Mbizo, in Dotito, a woman who is failing to access bread, who is failing to access sanitary pads.  This budget must be able to respond to issues raised by parliamentarians, it was raised by Members of Parliament across the political divide that sanitary pads must be for free.

Zimbabwe is not Switzerland.  We cannot sustain our budget by over-taxation; I will refer you to Annexure 16 of the Budget; approved fees Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.  For a transport operator who owns an 18 seater minibus, he has to go through eight forms of taxes before he even picks up passenger; he has to go through the light motor vehicles for 10 dollars, he has to go through abnormal size permit for 150 dollars; he has to go through the vehicle licence fee for 300 dollars.  In total the eight licences which he has to go through just at registration amounts to RTGS$1475 before he has even picked up one passenger.  We cannot overtax our people.

Hon. Speaker, I will move over to the issue of accountability.  The Public Accounts Committee sat about two weeks ago and one of the major highlights which were produced is that in December of 2017, three billion dollars was allocated to the Command Agricultural Program and it was used within a space of three months.  How do we continue as Parliament to give an opportunity to the Minister to give money to a program that is unaccounted for?  Every year we are sinking in money to the Command Agriculture Program not that it is bad, we want our farmers to be able to progress but we need accounting.  The Ministry officials failed to account for three billion. When asked in this Parliament, the Hon. Minister referred to Members of the Opposition as baboons and monkeys because he was failing –

We must come to a point whereby we go Vote by Vote, not at Committee stage but even at this Second Reading Stage to the extent that the Minister must be able to justify that, of the two billion which we gave to the Ministry of Defence what was it used for.  This is the process which we go through every time we have a pre-budget process and it takes me back to the issue of – yes, Hon. Minister, we understand that you are in a hurry to pass this Mid Term Budget because the House is on fire, but we also risk doing more damage if we do not consult.  The Hon. Minister was supposed to come to us and say of the money which you gave me in December, this is what I have used and we see if our budgeting formula in principle is working.  Now, he is coming here seeking more money without being accountable.  We cannot be a Parliament which continuously pumps out money through the taxpayers without consulting them.

I will go to the non-performance of the energy sector.  The Hon. Minister boasts of 800 million dollar surplus in terms of RTGS reduced today’s interbank rate, it comes to 80 million.  If I was him, I would take 60 million and pay it towards power so that at least we encourage production.  What we are currently doing is to suppress production and in a country like Zimbabwe, if we suppress production, we cannot generate revenue.  Industries are spending 18 hours closed because there is no power.  Why can we not deliberately use the surplus to pay for ZESA import through ESKOM and Cabora Basa so that at least industries begin to work and then we have production where we have been collecting taxes.  Why do you want to collect taxes on pay as you earn, you cannot run a country on pay as you earn where there is 90% unemployment.  I, therefore, beg for the Minister to reconsider that.

Fuel has gone up for more than five times in two months but every time it goes up the queues remain the same.  What is the Minister doing with this Mid Term Budget for him to be able to announce in this House and say that, ‘with this money which you have given me, I am dedicating towards the fuel sector, fuel queues are going to disappear’.  I asked this question in this House and I was promised by Hon. Chasi that from the day he was appointed fuel queues were going to disappear within two weeks – up to now queues are running in kilometres.

As we pass this budget, we must be alive to the effect that once we are dedicating people’s money towards this project, of what positive effect for that matter is it going to give to the people of Zimbabwe? In his response Hon. Minister, when are we going to have power in our houses, when are we going to have the disappearance of fuel queues through the money which he has come to Parliament to seek?  We are the Parliament; how much money does he want for him to be able to make the queues to disappear?

Hon. Minister Ncube, by his own admission, he is quoted as saying, “ when I came to become Finance Minister, I thought it was a job with regards to finance and economics but I have to come to realise that it is all about politics”.  He was right, I agree with him.  Let us be able to relieve pressure on this Hon. Minister.  He must go back to his principal and advise him that the underlying fundamentals of this country are the bad politics of this country.  We can debate budgets and budgets, day in and day out but without solving the fundamental politics of this country these budgets will come to no fruit.  There must be a dialogue between contesting parties. It is a fact that there are disputed elections and in the absence of a dialogue between the contesting parties, these budgets may come in their billions but they will not pass.  Even if these budgets come in their billions, the people of Zimbabwe will not be able to enjoy because we are budgeting for nothing since the political fundamentals have not been addressed.  Hon. Mthuli Ncube, his principal and the Cabinet must be able to sit down with all political parties.

HON. KASHIRI: On a point of order! The Hon. Member should stop politicising the budget. Let him debate on facts according to the budget not to politicise the budget in here.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. Member, please, refrain from politicizing the budget.

HON. CHIKWINYA: Thank you, Hon. Speaker.  In a matter between Jonathan Moyo versus the Speaker of Parliament of 2010, the matter of 2009, Justice Chidyausiku ruled that Parliament is the biggest assembly of politicians. Therefore, we cannot divorce matters to do with the budget and public finance with politics because politics is the underlying factor.   I, therefore, conclude by saying, I beg that the Hon. Minister of Finance must be able to come and tell us how much money, not in percentage format; we are seeing this trend whereby the Minister says I gave civil servants 63 million. If you look on the face of it, it is as if it is a lot of money but if you divide the 63 million by the total number of civil servants, each civil servant got 26 dollars.  If you look again at the cushioning allowance were the Hon. Minister says again 400 million divided by the number of civil servants, each civil servant got 320 dollars which is nothing.  We do not want cushioning allowance.

The Hon. Minister must stand up at the appropriate time and tell us that the lowest-paid civil servants are going to be above the tax threshold.  You cannot have a civil servant who is not being taxed.  They have raised the tax threshold to 700 dollars, so expect a teacher to earn 400 dollars which is half of the tax threshold.  Next time we want the Hon. Minister not to tell us the blanket sum which has been given but the individual sum to be given to each lowest paid worker in Government.

We also want this increase to be based on the prevailing bread basket rate, we want the trade unions to be consulted.  We want all worker representatives and the employer representatives to be consulted so that when we adjust this budget, we are responding to the needs and the practical issues which the people of Zimbabwe are facing. I thank you.

 

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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