Zanu PF and MDC-T senators last Thursday touched the emotive issue of massive foreign travel expenditure by the Executive, which Finance minister Tendai Biti had said was one of the issues draining the fiscus.
The senators, while debating the Mid-Term Budget Review by Biti, expressed divergent views with some Zanu PF senators saying there was nothing wrong with foreign trips, while their MDC-T counterparts argued ordinary people were suffering in this country due to extravagance by the Executive.
This came in the wake of the presentation of the Mid-Term Budget Review statement where Biti said foreign travel by the Executive had already gobbled up $30 million during the first quarter of the year.
Mazowe Senator Agnes Angelina Dete (Zanu PF) argued President Robert Mugabe travelled because there were sufficient grounds for him to do so.
“The President travels because there is good enough reason for him to do so and he gets invited to various conferences internationally,” said Dete.
“The funny thing is that Biti talks of foreign travel expenditure as draining the fiscus, but I have not heard him speaking about sanctions because they are the ones that affect business in this country.”
But, the MDC-T Senator for Mutasa-Nyanga, Patrick Chitaka, said he did not have any qualms with the Executive travelling as much as they wanted as long as they brought business to the country.
“I have no problem with the Executive travelling and spending $30 million if they brought billions worth of business to the country. However, if that $30 million they have already spent is not giving us any returns as a country, then we should condemn it in the strongest terms,” Chitaka said.
“We all know how poorly remunerated our ministers are and it might be supplementary income generation for them if they always travelled. Maybe if we paid them adequately they would reduce this foreign travel.”
He said Zanu PF senators were crying about sanctions and yet the travel restrictions on some Zanu PF individuals might be a blessing in disguise to cut more foreign travel expenses.
“My colleagues are crying that sanctions are biting this country. I shudder to think if the travel restrictions were removed, the travel bill for this country would have shot up from $30 million to billions,” he said.