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Is Zimbabwe economy $19 billion, $40 billion or $180 billion?

HON. CROSS: I do not believe that in fact our focus in this budget debate should be on reducing expenditure but it should be on increasing the cake, increasing the amount of money which the Treasury has to spend. I think that should be the real focus of the 2018 debate.

On the question of employment costs, 75% of the present budget – I will just point out to Hon. Members here, that is the highest rate of expenditure on employment costs for a Government in the whole of Africa. In Tanzania, it is only 22% of the Budget.

Mr. Speaker Sir, on the question of parastatal reforms, the Committee welcomes the Minister’s tough stance. He has made it quite clear that he is not going to allow parastatals to continue to lose money and not contribute to the fiscus; that if they want to remain in business, they must turn a profit and no debate. The Committee also welcomes the list of parastatals to be privatised, it is long overdue. At the beginning of the Government of National Unity (GNU), we decided that we would privatise 10 parastatals, the Minister’s list is much more substantial and I think the House should support him in every way.

Then is the Minister’s forecast on growth in 2018 of 4.5%. I hope this is modest Mr. Speaker. I think that with the measures being taken by the Government since the changes in November, I can see the private sector responding strongly with new investments. In fact, my contacts in the private sector are abuzz with new investors coming into the country and wanting to do things which they have been holding onto for many months or even years. I have seen for myself the new attitude, the new culture of work inside the Government where Ministers are coming to work early in the morning. The President, I understand comes to work at 7:30 a.m. I understand the President demands that people should be on time. Mr. Speaker, if that is the name of the game, I want to tell you that we could well exceed the growth forecast for this year. I think that will provide us with a real basis for moving forward in the future – [AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.] –

On the question of social services allocations Mr. Speaker, our principle concern as a Committee – and remember we are not responsible for any one of the individual ministries, this is purely and simply from a macroeconomic point of view. Our principle concern Hon. Minister, was the allocation to health. Allocation to health is barely 5.8% of the budget this year, which is simply and totally inadequate. If we can resolve the revenue problems of the Government, I think the health budget must be the first priority – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] – we need to double the health budget and we should not shy away from that. We cannot run our hospitals with the kind of budget we have got here and we cannot expect our health professionals to work in this kind of environment. As a country, we simply have to make health a bigger priority.

The other question which we examined at length Mr. Speaker and which we are concerned about is the question of ECD. When the Government announced that they were going to extend compulsory primary school education by two years to include the ECD children, what they were doing is they were bringing something like 600 000 to 700 000 children into the school system. We needed 16 000 new classrooms. We needed goodness knows how many more teachers, 20 to 25 000.

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