FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa has defended Treasury’s decision to allocate $379 million to the Defence ministry under the 2015 National Budget saying the ministry needed to upgrade its training equipment and beef up its staff.
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This was after Senators on Friday questioned why the Defence ministry always got the largest piece of the Budget cake when social welfare ministries were severely underfunded.
The issue also caused commotion in the National Assembly last week with opposition MPs questioning the rationale behind giving a lion’s share of the budget to the Defence ministry at a time the country was not under any security threat.
“All activities taking place in agriculture, mining, and tourism need peace and stability and it is the security forces that deter trouble makers,” Chinamasa said.
“What you have to understand about the Defence ministry is that their major costs are not salaries, but equipment because the cost of one helicopter alone is exorbitant,” he said.
Chinamasa said the Defence budget was actually grossly underfunded.
“To have a better equipped army we need a performing economy. The first line of defence in any country is a performing economy. Let us not take the peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in Zimbabwe for granted. It is there because we have a well-trained army. An army which does not recruit fresh blood becomes an old dead army.
“We have not provided for fresh recruitments in the budget which is bad. We also have not provided for training. An army which does not train — when you need it that army will not be good for the country. Even in the absence of war we need an army which keeps recruiting, training and up-grading its equipment,” he said.
Midlands Senator Morgan Komichi (MDC-T) argued that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should have been allocated as much money as Defence because there was need to resuscitate industry and people were being retrenched.
Harare Metropolitan Senator James Makore (MDC-T) said he did not see any reason why the Defence vote was high because there was no war in Zimbabwe.