Finance minister Tendai Biti will soon present a Mid-Term Budget in Parliament, amidst mounting tension in the country over civil servants’ salaries, among other issues.
Senators from across the political divide this week spoke to NewsDay on what they expected Biti to tackle in his Budget presentation.
Most Senators urged the Finance minister to award big allocations to social service sectors like education, health and agriculture.
The following are views from the Senators.
Keresensia Chabuka — Mutare Senator (MDC-T)
Life is still difficult in Zimbabwe and we expect that revenue from mineral resources should be accounted for and channelled towards paying civil servants’ salaries that are above the poverty datum line.
For women programmes, we want a reasonable allocation because they are the most vulnerable group in terms of health threats. We hope more money will be channelled towards improving maternal health.
Women look after orphans and the minister must declare that children with disabilities should access medical care free of charge.
Tariro Mtingwende — Gokwe North Senator (Zanu PF)
For any country to achieve economic growth, its workers should be happy and well-remunerated. It increases production and we hope the minister will increase civil servants’ salaries. We hope the Budget will also favour women.
People are suffering and cannot access healthcare services, especially the rural folk. Pregnant women travel long distances to access health facilities and this has resulted in high maternal mortality rates because women end up bleeding to death while giving birth at home as they cannot afford hospital fees.
We hope the minister will give a substantial allocation towards the health sector.
MPs’ salaries and their welfare should also be looked at seriously because Zimbabwean MPs are looked down upon by their constituents because they are poor. This really demeans MPs.
Most children cannot afford school fees and we hope there will be a provision for schoolchildren to get free textbooks and exercise books.
We also want support for farmers in terms of loans, seed and fertiliser.
Gaule Believe — Tsholotsho Senator (MDC-N)
The issue of civil servants’ salaries should be the priority. At schools children are not learning because teacher morale is very low.
We also want the minister to clarify how we are going to work with institutions like the IMF and the World Bank because it is high time we started relying on what we have.
The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) should not go to MPs, but must be channelled through local authorities because they are the ones who really know the projects that people need. Local authorities have developmental plans, yet MPs politicise the CDF.
Government should also put a lot of money towards health to ensure more nurses are employed because hospitals are understaffed.
The construction of Lupane State University and other universities, as well as projects like dams, roads and so on are stagnant due to lack of funding.
The minister should put in funds for the completion of projects already underway before embarking on new ones.
An amount should also be reserved for hunger relief programmes in Matabeleland because starvation is looming since crops were destroyed by elephants in Matabeleland North.
Maybe the minister can introduce food-for-work programmes for those provinces affected by drought.
Rorana Muchihwa — Hwata Senator (MDC-T)
The issue of the fate of civil servants in terms of their salaries can only be solved through a supplementary Budget and we hope the minister will look at that.
Biti should also ensure that children living with HIV/Aids get free access to anti-retroviral drugs.
Agriculture is an important sector and we would like farmers to be able to access loans and inputs so that the country goes back to its status as the breadbasket of Southern Africa.
We want the minister to support the importation of second-hand vehicles as well as supporting the informal sector in terms of imposing less duty for imported goods. This would even assist the country to earn foreign currency and boost small-to-medium enterprises.
The minister should introduce loans for projects by women and loans to assist students at tertiary institutions.