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

When you make a policy decision like this, Mr. Speaker, to extend the education system for primary schools downwards by two years, you must provide for the changes financially, and to expect parents to pick up the tab for teachers, classrooms, school books and everything else makes a complete mockery of our commitment of free primary school education. This is a matter which must be addressed. If the Minister of Education is going to be required to provide two years of ECD education to all the primary school children in this country, we must provide the teachers and we must provide the necessary supporting infrastructure – no question.

On the question of the amendments to the Indigenisation Act, Mr. Speaker, the Finance Bill this year is a very substantial document. It is nearly 50 pages and this is usual. It is an American practice to use legislation as an omnibus vehicle for changing Acts, and that is what the Minister is doing here. Clearly, he is in a hurry to do so. Your Committee, Mr. Speaker Sir, expressed concern that a fundamental piece of legislation like the Indigenisation Act should not be amended in the Finance Act, it should be a result of the formal amendment of the Act itself, and that there should be a debate on this issue in the House before the changes are instituted. This is a vital piece of legislation and that was the main criticism of the Finance Act itself.

On the question of addressing the cash shortage, Mr. Speaker, all of us should have seen the massive queues at Christmas time as people went to their banks and tried to draw money to go home and they were unsuccessful. I know personally from my own bank, I was unable to draw cash for a month. No cash whatsoever. Mr. Speaker, we simply cannot carry on like this. We have to find a solution and I think the Minister and the Governor of the Reserve Bank have got to give real attention to this. This is not a peripheral issue. You cannot ask rural peasant families to use swipe cards. The unbanked community in Zimbabwe must be 70% of the population. They need cash. They do not need some kind of promise of money by and by.

How much time are our people wasting standing in queues unproductively? How many factories do we have that are short of staff during the day because they go and try and collect their salaries from the banks? I think there is a solution to this. Your Committee has considered this and in fact, made recommendations some months ago, but I think this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The core issue is the budget deficit because that is absorbing all the liquidity that we have.

On the question of the inflation forecast, the Committee was rather critical of the Minister’s estimate. The Minister’s estimate is 3% for 2017 and 3% for 2018. Minister, we know that is a fiction. I spoke to one of the largest retail chains in the country a few weeks ago and the Managing Director told me his average inflation in the supermarket was 30%. Now, does the Minister think that the current increase in VAT returns is based on real turn over? It is not, it is inflation. I do not believe for one minute that we can expect inflation to be held down to 3% in 2018. It is more likely to be 15% or 20% and the reason is the informal market for foreign exchange. People are paying a 60% premium today for United States dollars to import goods and that is the thing that is driving inflation.

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