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Chinamasa finds his groove

The numbers don’t lie

There is a lot that Chinamasa was once forced to do that he is now happy to bury publicly. He spoke freely against everything that Mugabe got wrong. The “policy inconsistencies”, a hallmark of Mugabe’s fumbling government, and the “fiscal indiscipline” that reflected in the failure to adhere to approved budgets. Massive spending was “being incurred arbitrarily outside Budgeted Votes”. There was a failure to follow laid down systems, Chinamasa said.

Chinamasa used terms such as “paradigm shift” and “New Economic Order” and “new system” to try and drive home the point that this was a new Government that was determined to do new things.

But away from his triumphant words and his promises to end the old chapter, it is the numbers that show how big a job he has if he is to make a real clean break from the Mugabe era.

Most critics have immediately latched on to Chinamasa’s allocations, especially the fact that Defence got more than Health. But the bigger problem is not who gets what, but what it is being used for, and what Chinamasa can do about it.

The wage bill is still at 85 percent of revenue. So even if Health or Education do get more than the military, focus must be on the fact that most of it is being chewed by wages, not investment and operations.

His measures to reduce the wage bill include everything from retiring aged civil servants to cutting fuel allocations, but the cuts just don’t go deep enough. The yawning deficit, the source of inflation and liquidity shortages, demands that more sacrifices to be made. As long as Chinamasa cannot fix that deficit, it won’t matter much how much money is allocated where.

Chinamasa has enjoyed his first taste of freedom, and his “Free at last” joy was clear throughout his triumphant statement. But now that he is free of Mugabe’s shackles, Chinamasa’s true mettle will now be tested. – The Source

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