BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
GOVERNMENT has come under fire over statistical inconsistencies whereby the statistics in the pre-budget strategy paper are at variance with the 2020 national budget as well as the blue book.
In its 2020 national budget comprehensive analysis, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) said the statistical inconsistencies were a cause for concern.
“In the recent past, the government has issued conflicting figures in relation to GDP [gross domestic product] growth rate, current account balances, government revenue projections and expenditure projections for 2019 and 2020,” Zimcodd said.
“The statistical inconsistencies further erode public trust in the government, which might lead to increased citizen apathy in public policy. The statistics in the pre-budget strategy paper are at variance with the 2020 national budget and the blue book,” it said.
According to the 2020 pre-budget strategy paper, government targeted a GDP growth rate for 2020 of 4,6%, but in the national budget presentation, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube put the figure at 3%.
The same applies to inflation targets for 2020. The budget strategy paper puts the figure at 2,3%, while the budget says 2%.
Government also targeted revenue of $24,8 billion in its budget strategy paper, but in the national budget presentation and blue book, the figure was put at $58,6 billion and $73,5 billion, respectively.
Projected government expenditure was estimated to be $28,5 billion (budget strategy paper), $63,6 billion (2020 budget presentation) and $68 billion (blue book).
Budget balance for 2020 was put at -$3,7 million (budget strategy paper), -$5 billion (2020 budget presentation) and -$5,5 billion (blue book).
The 2020 budget strategy paper projected a current account deficit of US$1,1 billion while budget presentation targeted US$85,7 million.
Efforts to get clarity on the statistical inconsistencies from Ncube and his permanent secretary George Guvamatanga were fruitless as their cellphones went unanswered.
Meanwhile, Zimcodd said the 2020 national budget seemed to be an overambitious plan given the current macroeconomic environment which is characterised by low capacity utilisation, debt overhang, poor public finance management and corruption, among other ills.
“While the government is currently and has for a long time been failing to maintain existing infrastructure, which has resulted in a huge social and infrastructural gap, it is worrisome to imagine how the government intends to fulfil its new proposal to set up new infrastructure under the 2020 national budget,” the organisation said.
Furthermore, Zimcodd said the budget was not explicit on how it intended to rescue the poor and marginalised from the shackles of poverty.
“Failing to eradicate poverty has further widened the inequality gap as it manifests in various forms cutting across the social, economic, political and ecological dimensions. It should be appreciated that like its predecessor the 2019 budget, the 2020 national budget is full of rhetoric promises unsupported by financial support.”