SO much was expected from Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2021 national budget, which was presented yesterday.
Yet he delivered very little.
Zimbabwe has been badly battered by multiple hardships stemming out of sheer mismanagement, misgovernance and corruption. And when authorities pretend to be delivering policies that help people, but end up glossing over their incompetencies as happened yesterday, we wonder where our citizens will go to get their challenges addressed.
Blueprints like the national budget are no laughing matter. They lay a foundation on which over 16 million Zimbabweans live and how future generations will also survive.
The budget must not be turned into a machine that generates money for the elite, and takes everything from the poor.
This is not how it should be. But it appears Mthuli has chosen to pursue this long chosen path, punishing the poor through policies that ignite price hikes, and taking everything that they have through hostile taxes and fees.
In the end, it is the poor and defenceless majority people who suffer. That is why we were so disappointed by yesterday’s budget.
Zimbabweans expected a well-considered hike in tax free threshold of up to $20 000, for instance, for people’s wages to make an impact during this festive season when so much is required in terms of preparations for Christmas and budgeting for expenses in January.
Yet, Mthuli placed the figure at a paltry $10 000.
It means the few who are still formally employed and earning less than $10 000 per month will always be broke before they earn their wages. This is a recipe for disaster in many ways.
Poverty levels will remain steep, food insecurity rates will remain high, and millions of people will continue to struggle finding food because the workers who normally support them won’t afford.
While inflation has been decelerating, it remains extremely high at 471%, which explains why prices remain high and spending power has been subdued.
This in itself is another recipe for disaster. A nation that does not spend is as good as dead and so is its industry.
It lacks the catalyst that is vital for stimulating demand to expand businesses, which employ people, encouraging more spending.
Clearly, yesterday’s budget missed the point by ignoring this very important fact. By firing the blanks, Mthuli can be guaranteed that job actions that we have seen in 2020 will intensify next year as teachers, nurses and other civil servants feel the pinch of a never ending economic crisis.
And even if government cracks down on them and force them to return to work, it will not work.
They will simply not deliver. Our children will receive a poor education, with disastrous consequences on future generations. Already, people are dying needlessly in hospitals because morale is low among those still reporting to work, simple.
And in a country with over 90% unemployment, very few can afford private health care, which is readily available in United States dollar fees. Government must be serious, the people are suffering.
Is Mthuli a comedian or an economist? It almost beggars belief that anyone can be so cruel intentionally.