Expectations ahead of the 2019 National Budget presentation

Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube will tomorrow present the much-awaited 2019 National Budget.

guest column: Ashley Kondo

The presentation would be the Second Republic’s inaugural budget since the coming into office of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, following this year’s harmonised elections.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downward trend for the past two or so decades and this has largely been attributed to a number of factors, including mismanagement and abuse of national funds, misplaced priorities and sanctions, among others.

Since coming into office, Mnangagwa and his administration has been on a drive to revive the country’s economy and ensure a middle-class economy by 2030.

While a lot of progress has been registered towards achieving this goal, including the resuscitation of the mining, health and manufacturing sectors, the national budget will reaffirm government’s commitment to rebuilding the nation.

It is everyone’s hope that government, through the 2019 National Budget, will implement a raft of measures that would turnaround the country’s economic fortunes.

Therefore, it becomes paramount for Ncube to give special preference in resource allocation to the productive sectors of the economy, if this dream is to come true.

It cannot be disputed that agriculture has remained the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy during times of hardships, along with mining.

Therefore, it suffices for Ncube to adequately fund the said sectors.

Programmes aimed at promoting growth of the agricultural sector ought to be made bigger and better.

For instance, the resuscitation and expansion of irrigation schemes, the Presidential Inputs Scheme, the command agriculture and command livestock programmes would go a long way in ensuring the growth of the agricultural sector, if adequately funded.

Furthermore, such a move would ensure food security in the country and eradicate commodity shortages as they are structured in a way that guides farmers in order to address the demand and supply concept.

The civil service wage bill has remained a contentious issue for a number of years and needs redress if the country’s economy is to get a boost.

In previous years, the wage bill has consumed up to about 90% of the country’s annual national budget and many have criticised this as unsustainable, including regional and international financial institutions.

Already, upon his initial swearing-in as Head of State last November, Mnangagwa announced that he would trim the size of the public service, travel and subsistence allowances for senior government officials.

Government has been spending more than the country’s income, resulting in budget deficits.

The situation has been exacerbated by fiscal indiscipline through distorted foreign exchange rates spearheaded by the parallel market.

The coming in of the new dispensation saw the introduction of free health services, including maternal health, treatment of children below five years of age and provision of blood at all public hospitals in the country.

However, there has been concern over the issue of understaffing, lack of machinery and other requisite medical equipment in these hospitals.

There is need for the budget to take cognisance of these concerns and avail more funds towards the health sector.

In order to decongest public hospitals, the government could also engage private hospitals in a bid to subsidise maternal health costs.

Of late, private hospitals have been charging their maternal fees in United States dollars, a move which has led to the congestion of public hospitals.

In any country, industry is also a key driver of the economy, hence the need to revive the manufacturing industry through public and private partnerships.

It can be noted that Zimbabwe’s expenditure on imports is relatively higher than its exports.

The country needs to produce and export its goods to other countries so as to earn the much needed foreign currency.

The resuscitation of industry would also complete value added chains across mining and agriculture. For instance, the country would be able to process and sale finished products instead of raw materials to other countries.

Ashley Kondo writes in his personal capacity

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