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Mixed reactions on Budget

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After the announcement of the 2011 National Budget by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, MPs expressed mixed reactions to the budget.

Although almost all the MPs interviewed said the budget took into consideration the needs of the marginalised, some said the funds injected for agriculture were not enough.

MPs commended the $400 million boost allocated to the Education sector and said it would help revive the sector as it had seriously deteriorated.

They said given the economic situation in the country, Biti tried his best to craft a budget that sought to alleviate most of the problems experienced by the poor.

The following are excerpts of interviews with MPs from different political parties in Parliament.

Moses Mare – MDC-T MP for Chiredzi West

I would say it was a very fair budget and that it was really a people’s budget.

If you look at the Health budget, the Minister of Finance put a substantial amount to various hospitals in the country.

The budget covered a lot of issues to do with the welfare of the community, especially when we look at the way it dealt with Customs and Excise officers.

They were using their personal discretion when serving people at the border posts.

People want to benefit from those Japanese vehicles because they are affordable.

On the issue of mining, the percentage of taxation that the minister has put for alluvial diamonds is still too low.

Shabanie Mashaba Mines Holdings is now a humanitarian issue.

SMM is the sole asbestos mine in the country and the minister has expressed the need to solve the SMM saga as a matter of urgency, thus supporting the sentiments of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy.

The minister has also brought a lifeline to the energy sector by putting in some money towards refurbishment of infrastructure, as well as removing duty on the importation of generators.

This would enable everyone to have a standby generator at their homes and this is pivotal in power generation for the whole country.

Paddy Zhanda – Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi North and chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance

I am disappointed with the way Minister of Finance Tendai Biti reduced duty on importation of finished products.

We cannot be a nation of traders and I do not think that is right.

We should encourage the sale of our local products through policy direction.

I am also unhappy with the issue of agriculture. We need to encourage production. We also need to deal with agricultural policies.

The other issue I am not happy with is the continuation of putting free duty on importation of foodstuffs.
This does not encourage our local industry.

The importation of finished products is wrong.

How can a farmer from Mutoko compete with South African producers?

How can agriculture grow by 34% when there is no capitalisation of that sector?

There is underfunding and no provision for borrowing.

When talking of pro-poor budgets, I want to say one does not deal with poverty by giving away money to the poor, but by making them productive.

I have no complaints about the Education vote.

We were also making a lot of noise about the salaries of civil servants but we had to start from somewhere and create an aggregate.

Blessing Chebundo – MDC-T MP for Kwekwe Central and chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication

Under the circumstances that we are in this country, mostly to do with the political and economic environment, I think Treasury has done its best to try and make sure this country continues kicking.

It is a balancing budget and attempts to say that life should go on.

The main thing is that we have to face the stark reality that we do not have lines of credit and we cannot expect our budget to include votes of credit because we have no one to come to our rescue.

We have to make do with whatever we have in this country.

It is a balancing budget, given its attempt to look at infrastructural and education development.

However, when we look at the issue of parastatals – that is where our concern is as society.

What is happening now is that the nation is continuously putting in money in those underperforming parastatals, which is negative because instead, they are supposed to bring money to the Treasury.

What it means is that we need to find out what it is that makes parastatals fail to generate funds when other companies are making profits.

Is it politics, mismanagement or interference from shareholders? Those are issues we need to find solutions to.

On the Health budget, there is no nation that can tick when people are not healthy.

The minister said he was going to target district and provincial hospitals.

I think we need to zero in on primary health care, where a majority of problems are found.

If more money is put for primary health care and preventive measures, diseases can be stopped because most of them are airborne or waterborne.

If sanitary and water facilities are improved, we curb the spread of diseases.

On the issue of salaries, given the present scenario Treasury has done its best to improve salaries of civil servants.

Jessie Majome – MDC-T MP for Harare West and Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development

I welcome the way the budget allocated money to competing sectors with necessary needs.

It has managed to protect social sectors like Education, which got the lion’s share.

This is welcome because our education system had dilapidated.

I am encouraged to know that the budget took into cognisance the unacceptably high maternal mortality rates through subsidising the bulk of maternal care costs.

It is also commendable that the budget sought to address the issue of people with disabilities and to protect the productive sectors by reducing duty on commodities such as food and clothes.

Allowing the importation of vehicles is also good because it would make cars accessible to the poor.

Reduction of duty on second-hand clothing is beneficial, especially to women who import clothes for resale.

It improves the quality of life for Zimbabweans who had been unable to afford clothes.

The stringent measures on cheap imported and highly intoxicating spirits are good as they protect our local alcohol manufacturers.

I think this budget has a human face. It is a necessary endeavour that will give benefit to the general populace.

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