MPs converge for Budget retreat

Members of Parliament and key stakeholders in the financial sector are reportedly attending a pre-Budget seminar starting on Thursday in Victoria Falls.

The seminar, which will include key stakeholders in financial matters as well as the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, is expected to review the 2011 National Budget and debate the proposed 2012 Budget which Finance minister Tendai Biti has tentatively projected to hover around $3,5 billion.

During the pre-Budget public hearings recently held by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, members of the public demanded a pro-poor Budget that will improve social services, disposable incomes for workers, and demanded extravagant spending by the Executive on foreign trips be curbed.

The committee is chaired by Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda.

According to a statement from Parliament, the major objective of the seminar would be to provide MPs, as key stakeholders in the Budget process, with a platform to review strategies to develop the economy in light of the current environment. Part of the statement reads:

“The specific objectives of the seminar are for MPs to analyse the economic environment within the Budget which is being crafted in order to gain members’ appreciation and provide an opportunity for feedback on the performance of the Budget review process from Portfolio Committees and other stakeholders.

“They will be expected to analyse the assumptions and priorities for the 2012 Budget with respect to issues such as agriculture, transport and energy, social welfare, provision of quality education and also review the ministries’ responses to the Budget review process.”

The Victoria Falls retreat comes amid complaints by chairmen from Parliamentary committees on budget and finance from Malawi, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, who last year said they were not happy with the manner in which budgets were approved by the Executive without involvement of MPs.

Zhanda said limited resources also forced pre-Budget consultations to be confined only to people in the main cities leaving out opinions of poor people in rural areas and those at mining towns.

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