HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsBiti can’t pull off Houdini act

Biti can’t pull off Houdini act

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The Budget preparation process in Zimbabwe generally follows the same pattern every year. This is done through consultations at several levels of government and with private sector players.

Several pre-Budget gatherings have taken place as part of this process but parallel to this has been a campaign of deceit by Zanu PF officials and state players to create the impression that the budget-making process is a one-man show.

But Zanu PF, in its cunning designs, appears to be ignorant of this process.

This week the party’s secretary for information and publicity Rugare Gumbo in a radio interview provided a curious view of the budget process to the extent of calling for Finance minister Tendai Biti to do a Houdini act of financing capital projects from non-existent resources.

In the interview, Gumbo came up with a long shopping list which he expects the Finance minister to find resources for.

The list included capital projects like dams, irrigation projects, and beneficiation facilities for cotton and minerals.

Gumbo also said Biti should allocate a sizeable amount of money to agriculture, to supply free agriculture inputs to farmers.

Zanu PF, which during the pre-dollarisation era, was happy to dish out free inputs to its supporters, mainly funded by money printed by the central bank, wants Biti to revive this project.

Gumbo and Zanu PF are not the only ones clamouring for financial resources from the fiscus.

The security establishment has always complained of poor funding impacting on service delivery.

They want more money. But all these institutions are keenly aware that Biti only has so much, in fact very little to share among the competing national needs.

He only has $1,8 billion or just a little more.

That is what Gumbo and his ilk must understand.

We still have a sick economy which is not generating much from traditional sources of revenue.

There is no balance of payments support either.

While Zanu PF is well aware of this state of affairs, there are concerted efforts to portray Biti as a failed minister who is not keen to provide money to farming, build dams and revive industry.

In other words, the debate around the Budget has been hijacked by political forces bent on scoring points and not developing this country.

Careless comments like ascribing lack of budgetary support to an individual and not the whole institution of government are laughable and reduce national leaders to ignorant technocrats.

Political leaders, instead, have a role to explain to their constituencies the complexities of the National Budget. This includes the need to explain the source of funding for government activities.

For a long time, the common man has been made to believe that government has a huge stash of money from which it draws notes to splash to people.

This has been a common phenomenon ahead of elections. Zanu PF will find it hard to finance its patronage projects and it is evidently aggrieved.

We hope that Biti’s Budget on Thursday is not a product of this negative pressure from political forces.

We expect the minister to share the cake fairly between the productive sectors of the economy and improving social services, especially health and education.

It would be a big ask to expect him to announce huge budget allocations to capital projects which have been stalled for years.

The money is just not there, unless Gumbo can tell us where it is stashed.

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