High expectations for budget review

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The Minister of Finance Tendai Biti faces an almost insurmountable task tomorrow when he presents his Mid-Term Budget statement to parliamentarians, in an economy that has experienced modest growth since dollarisation last year.
MPs across the political divide said they were deeply concerned with the livelihood of their constituents and want the Finance minister to announce an increase in the civil service wage bill.
Earlier this year, Biti locked horns with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for failing to adjust civil service wages against expectations, saying the government did not have the capacity to do so.
Tsvangirai moved quickly to pacify restive civil servants who had threatened to strike should the government not raise their salaries in line with the poverty datum line then estimated at about $500 a month.
Senator for Tsholotsho Believe Gaule (MDC-M), said Biti should deal with the sensitive issue of civil servants’ salaries professionally.
“School children are suffering the most because their parents, who are mostly civil servants, earn very little and have had their salaries frozen,” he said. “We hope the Finance minister will announce some positive things to cushion civil servants.”
Gaule said most companies needed re-capitalisation in order for the economy to recover.
He said imports were killing the local industry and hoped Biti would reinstate import duty on basic commodities.
Gaule said he expects the government to move with speed to alleviate the effects of the drought stalking many parts of the country following a bad rainy season.
Legislator for Mutare South, Fred Kanzama (Zanu PF) said although Biti should be given a pat on the back for calling for the sale of the controversial Zimbabwe diamonds, it was difficult for him to present a meaningful budget unless the country started selling the gems.
“I do not expect that any proposal in the budget will add value as long as we have a liquidity problem,” he said. “The only option is to make sure that we are allowed to sell our diamonds,” he said.
Kanzama further said as long as millers were not able to get good quality wheat from local producers, they would continue to import wheat and the price would remain high.
Glen View MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T) said the Finance minister should concentrate on reviving industries because many were under performing.
“Industry is not producing anything and that is why there is no money in this country,” Munengami said.
He said Biti should also deal with the issue of minerals.
“Diamonds are being sold illegally, but the country is not getting anything out of it. He should deal with that issue,” he said.