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Mashakada says Zimbabwe can be turned around if ministers work as hard as Chinamasa

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HON. DR. MASHAKADA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  As has become the tradition, after the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has tabled the Budget Statement, we as the official Opposition have to react to the Statement, highlight what we think are gaps and also compliment what we think are positive developments, and I am going to do just that.

Mr. Speaker Sir, from the onset, I must stress that the Minister of Finance has had a very difficult task.  In fact, we cannot envy him in the difficult task that he faces.  It is a difficult task because the fiscal space is so narrow and so limited.  He has to really be a new Bismarck who has to juggle around with a lot of expectations in terms of public expenditure measured against diminishing revenue.  This Budget Review should be judged from the point of view that the Minister did not have fiscal space in 2016 and still does not have adequate fiscal space in 2017.

Mr. Speaker, let me highlight the gaps or the deficiencies that I think the 2016 budgetary review reveals.  The first problem is that from the revenue allocation of $3.5 billion in 2016, employment costs chewed $3.2 billion.  So we are still grappling with employment costs Mr. Speaker Sir.  From $3.5 billion revenue to $3.2 billion on employment costs, it is still a huge challenge because 90% of the budget is still going towards recurrent expenditure and leaving no room for developmental programmes or projects.  So, it is a structural weakness of our budget as reviewed by the Hon. Minister and facts speak for themselves that Government does not have the capacity of political will to deal with employment costs.

For example, Mr. Speaker Sir, I expected the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development to tell us that the ghost workers have now been cleared but as it appears, he has carefully avoided telling us what has happened to ghost workers because they continue to demand a lot in terms of fiscal resources.  So from a point of view of the balance between development and recurrent budgets, I think the 2016 budget continues to be skewed in favour of nugatory or recurrent expenditure at the expense of developmental or people oriented expenditure.  That is one structural weakness of the 2016 budget as reviewed by the Hon. Minister.

The second weakness of the 2016 budget and its out-turn is that capital expenditure (CAPEX) performed dismally bad from the figures presented by the Hon. Minister.  The budget for 2016 had set aside $967 million for capital development or Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) but from his report, the out-turn was only $315 million from an initial projected $967 million.  It means that developmental infrastructural projects are suffering and without addressing infrastructural projects which are growth enhancing, you also compromise the capacity of the economy to grow on the basis of infrastructural development.

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