The Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, will announce the 2011 Budget next week, NewsDay has learnt.
The Budget, which comes at a time when trade unionists have called for one with a pro-poor bias so as to take care of the needs of the disadvantaged people, will be announced on November 25.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that the date had been set for the announcement of the Budget.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, Paddy Zhanda, said expectations were high that the minister would inject adequate funds for health, agriculture, recapitalisation of parastatals, as well as paying back people who lost their savings when the country adopted multicurrencies.
“People are owed a lot of money. Their money became valueless overnight, not through their negligence or willingness,” said Zhanda.
“However, people are carrying on with life as if nothing happened. It would be a big Christmas bonus to put something in the Budget in order to pay back that money to the people so that they have disposable income to kick-start the economy.”
Zhanda said there were expectations by people that at least a certain share, like 20% of mineral proceeds should go to government as revenue.
He also raised the issue of recapitalisation of parastatals, questioning why the state should continue owning entities that were no longer of value.
“We want to know who is accountable for their downfall and we do not want budgetary allocations to these parastatals at the expense of the poor because they (managers) buy expensive cars while people are earning as little as $180,” Zhanda told Biti.
Zhanda said Zimbabweans had complained of factory closures due to a sudden glut of imported goods, especially from the Chinese markets.
Last month during pre-Budget public hearings, Harare residents said the 2011 Budget should bar the importation of cheap finished products from China in order to revive Zimbabwe’s ailing industries.
Vimbai Zinyama, a parliamentary and advocacy officer with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, said government should revise its Look East Policy because it was largely responsible for the closure of most manufacturing concerns as cheap products were being brought in from China.
“The Look East Policy will need to be revisited in terms of how it is promoting underemployment,” she said.
“In the textile industry we also had small-scale traders like tailors who used to make clothes, but now they have nothing to do due to the influx of cheap finished products from the East.”
She said even small items like toothpicks were being imported from outside the country to be sold in Zimbabwe.
“We do not want to encourage businesses that come here and do retail services because we end up marketing toothpicks made up of sticks and yet our youths can get plenty of them in the forests and sharpen them into toothpicks,” she said.
Zinyama said Biti should formulate a pro-poor budget, which takes into account the concerns of the poor people because they were the ones who provided most of the votes in the electorate yet reaped the least when it came to budgetary allocation.
“There is no real money going to the poor sectors. Our wages are way below the poverty datum line and yet what we are expected to spend is more than that. The key thing is that we should increase wages to ensure people live decently and are able to spend,” she said.
She said pensioners who were suffering should also be considered in the Budget and it should deal with their welfare, and also consider creating employment for the people as well as reducing high taxation levels on the poor.
“Business should be taxed more than the poor workers because we want that gap between the rich and the poor reduced,” she said.
William Gwata of the Christian Democratic Party said the issues of HIV and Aids orphans should also be addressed in the National Budget because they had been ignored for a long time.
Gay Nyakwede, an information, communications and advocacy coordinator with the Zimbabwe Aids Network, suggested 15% of the Budget should be allocated to the health delivery system.
She said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) should be compelled to return the funds that it had taken from civic society organisations.
“We are also looking at the Budget to task the RBZ to release the civic society funds that have been outstanding since March 2008,” she said.
She said user fees for all HIV-related illnesses should be scraped. Fabion Dube, a farmer, said Biti’s 2011 Budget should promote food security and restore sanity in the agricultural sector which had been destroyed by land invasions.
“A good percentage of the Budget should go to agriculture and part of the amount should finance law enforcement agents to ensure there is law and order at the farms, as well as peace and stability because no farmer can do their activities if there is no peace,” he said.
During an interview with NewsDay after the public hearings, the chairman of the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee Zhanda said public consultations on the 2011 Budget had been helpful because people were able to give their views on formulations of pro-poor budgets that were important in poverty alleviation.