Before I begin my address, I kindly request the august House to observe a minute of silence in honour of the late Founding Father of our country and former President, His Excellency, Cde. R. G. Mugabe who passed on, on the 6th of September, 2019. As we remember him, let us stand emboldened by the fact that we cannot change the past, but the future is in your hands.
All Hon. Members rose in their seats and observed a minute of silence.
Mr. Speaker Sir, my Government continues to take bold and decisive steps to open up and grow the economy for the benefit of all our people. The road map articulated in our Vision 2030, with the TSP as the key building block, is being systematically pursued. We are reforming our economy, we are reforming our political space, and the very fabric of our society.
I am encouraged by the nation’s positive response to the currency reforms which we have embarked on. Government is equally pleased with the relative stability of the exchange rate over the past eight weeks. However, last week’s events of exchange rate manipulation amounts to economic sabotage and should not be tolerated. We all need to adhere to the rule of law and foster discipline at all levels.
We are determined to consolidate digital financial services which are contributing to the creation of financial inclusion, by way of delivering banking services to previously unbanked and vulnerable groups of our population. To further support the development of the financial services sector, Government has revived the issuance of treasury bills and bonds through the Auction system. In this vein, RBZ has established Savings Bond instruments to facilitate safe and secure investment for the public. In addition, measures will be put in place to establish the SMEs Stock Exchange, with a view to unlocking resources for SMEs.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is fully aware of the challenges faced by the public in accessing cash, which has resulted in some unscrupulous traders selling cash in exchange for electronic money. Appropriate measures are being taken to address the cash situation, which include a gradual removal of arbitrage opportunities created through multi-tier pricing.
I am pleased to highlight that the ongoing fiscal consolidation measures are already paying off. During the first half of 2019, a budget surplus has been recorded. Such savings have enabled Government to meet essential unplanned expenditures, in particular towards the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and in supporting livelihoods for communities affected by Cyclone Idai; in social service delivery, cost of living adjustments for civil servants and the provision of safety nets for the vulnerable members of our society.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, while the sustained turnaround of our economy hinges on focused support for the productive sectors, especially in agriculture, mining and manufacturing, the 2018/2019 drought has seen our agricultural sector registering a negative growth rate. Going forward, Government has set aside ZWL$1.8 billion towards the production of strategic crops, such as maize, soya beans and cotton. Of this amount, ZWL$ 567. 4 million has been allocated for the provision of inputs for vulnerable households and ZWL$332 million to ensure the procurement of inputs for cotton production. A total of ZWL$968 million will augment the ZWL$2.8 billion put forward by banks and the private sector, to support the Command Agriculture Programme.
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