FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday presented the 2016 National Budget to Parliament and if we describe it as a damp squib, we would be flattering him.
What Zimbabweans wanted to hear was how the budget would stimulate growth and development, but what they got was a very tired presentation. No doubt Zimbabweans were left with a sense of déjà vu. It felt like we have been here before and that is not encouraging.
What we found discomfiting was that the health budget was only allocated 9,3% or $331 million of the budget, while Home Affairs and Defence received $396 million and $358 million, respectively.
Only education got a larger vote than the security ministries, Home Affairs and Defence, probably due to employment costs rather than because they are a priority.
Why a country that has not been at war for 35 years, with little or no threat to its security, continues to prioritise the security sector in budget allocation, is mind-numbing and beggars belief.
This speaks to a siege mentality where we are creating enemies, imagined enemies.
Any right-minded Zimbabwean knows that if there is any risk that the country is facing, then it is the health crisis, HIV and Aids, cancer and malaria, among others, yet this does not rank highly on our list of priorities.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration, where it agreed to spend at least 15% of its budget on health, but Chinamasa only allocated 9,3%, way short of what was agreed on.
Thus, it begs the question why the government bothers signing international accords if it is not willing to abide by them.
Our biggest security risk and has been for a while — with the HIV pandemic, typhoid and cholera outbreaks of years gone by and several health personnel strikes — is the crisis in the health sector and the budget should have shown this by allocating more funds to it.
Amid all the excitement, what Chinamasa managed to do was to cast a pall of gloom across the country. It is evident that 2016 will be a tough year and it’s time to buckle up.