Saturday, 17 November 2012

CPC response to the 2013 National Budget presented by Finance Minister Tendai Biti

16 November 2012

The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC), having read the 2013 budget presentation, notes that it is a budget that is intended at continuity in relation to the inclusive government’s work programme at least six months prior to elections being held in March next year.

It is this intended continuity with its attendant business as usual approach that points to the fact that the inclusive government might not be taking elections scheduled for 2013 as seriously as would be expected. This is with regards to both the inadequate budgetary allocation for elections and the referendum, as well as in the assumption that the inclusive government’s work programme will be undertaken by the next government of Zimbabwe.

It is therefore the CPC’s initial observation that the inclusive government, through its budget is not taking the nationally important issue of elections as seriously as is necessary. This is even more tacit where consideration is given to the fact that the inclusive government is a compromise arrangement and to seek a repeat of the same through inadequate resourcing of elections is unfortunate.

The CPC notes that in the same framework of seeking continuity to its policy ambiguities, the inclusive government has not allocated any resources for a wholesale review of its performance either for each line ministry or as Cabinet. Because of this, there is the claim that for example, the Distressed Industrial and Marginalized area Fund (DIMAF) was not exhausted in the current financial year (2012), yet it was a fund that was established on the basis of urgency.

 It therefore becomes disheartening to assess that the recurrence of the same urgent challenges facing the people of Zimbabwe in all of the last four national budget presentations by the Minister of Finance is indicative of limited or poor performance by the ministers in the inclusive government.

In relation to social welfare or what the budget has termed ‘Social Services and Social Safety Nets,’ there is no new approach to the challenges faced therein. The template that the government seeks to use is that which has continued to bedevil the social services, particularly health and education since the first full budget of the inclusive government.

It would have been preferable had health and education at primary level be made free at all government institutions with the intention of ensuring access for all young children and primary school pupils. This would be a mitigatory measure against commercialization of these services where only the few get the best of them and our political leaders seek health treatment as well as send their children to expensive schools. And where international donors have been assisting in funding our health delivery system, it would be preferable that the government negotiate from that premise.

The reference that the budget makes to youth is however of significance in that indeed youth unemployment is a 'time-bomb' in Zimbabwe. In our view the reasons for this are not because, contrary to the budgets assertion of a fear of a youth uprising similar to the 'Arab spring'. it is more because the inclusive government has failed to address youth unemployment holistically and has unfortunately sought to purchase support of young Zimbabweans through unclear youth funds that have eventually mainly benefited those with proximity to political power. Where the 2013 budget emphasizes 'vocational training' for youths it accords them no particular role in the contemporary economy, particularly via public work programmes such as the much vaunted Plumtree-Mutare highway or even proposed rehabilitation of hospitals and other state institutions.

In conclusion, the CPC, being aware that budgets are not singular panaceas for societal development, it is the progress that they make and provide for that leads towards better and democratic distribution of the national cake. The 2013 budget however is not a major departure from what has been obtaining since 2009 where the template that informs it remains to the greater extent over reliant on resources and knowledge support from the IMF and the World Bank, institutions that were at the lead of implementing economic structural adjustment programmes in the 90s.

It is unfortunate that in contemporary times, the inclusive government continues to inadequately address the contextual economic problems that Zimbabwe faces through similarly arrived at templates.

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