BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/PRIDE MUZARABANI
UNDERFIRE Finance minister Mthuli Ncube on Thursday dodged Senate after he was summoned to give a ministerial statement on the currency crisis, gold coins and state of the economy.
Senate deputy president Mike Nyambuya summoned Ncube to Parliament a fortnight ago to proffer solutions to the economic haemorrhage, but he wrote back saying he would only show up after presenting his supplementary budget nextweek.
“The minister is currently presenting the mid-term budget review, which has already been presented to the Cabinet Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs,” a letter from the ministry read.
“The presentation to Parliament is on July 28, 2022. Madam President, we are, therefore, kindly requesting your permission if the Senate can indulge the minister to present the mid-term budget review to Parliament first and then attend to the issues raised by the Senate.
“The minister fully appreciates the importance, urgency and the need to address the issues raised by the Senate. Please accept, Madam President, the assurances of my highest consideration by the minister’s office,” the ministry added.
Ncube was summoned to Parliament following concerns that a number of interventions by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Executive had failed to stop the economic meltdown and runaway inflation now at 191,6%.
Prices of basic goods and services are galloping as the local currency continues on a free-fall amid calls for total dollarisation.
Government insists on its de-dollarisation strategy, and recently introduced gold coins to save the local currency.
The central bank says the gold coins will reduce demand for the US dollar, and stem rising inflation.
The gold coins will be available from Monday, according to the RBZ, and will be sold in local currency, US dollars and other foreign currencies at a price based on the prevailing international price of gold.
Opposition parties yesterday hit out at Ncube for avoiding Senate, with MDC-T Harare metropolitan senator Elias Mudzuri accusing him of citing flimsy excuses.
“From what he wrote, we are supposed to get a mid-term budget without understanding the meaning of certain terms around the same budget. I thought the minister is supposed to explain to us so that we will be able to listen to him and understand what he is trying to do,” Mudzuri said.
“How can we have a mid-term budget when we do not even understand what the fundamentals around are? That will not make us an august House. I think the minister should come to this House even on Tuesday next week so that we understand the fundamentals or he can send another minister.”
Senate acting president Chief Fortune Charumbira, however, defended Ncube, saying the minister was “probably trying to avoid pre-empting” his supplementary budget.
“We will have an opportunity to follow up on that mid-term budget presentation. We are likely to get all the clarifications. For now, let us give the benefit of the doubt that his intentions are good,” Charumbira said.
In a related matter, research watchdog, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) has also written to the Finance ministry demanding public consultations before announcement of a supplementary budget.
“Decentralise venues for public consultations, increase the time allocated per venue and ensure accessibility to different social groupings such as the elderly and people with disabilities,” the debt watchdog said in a letter dated July 14.
Zimcodd urged the Finance ministry to timely release the Budget Strategy Paper in a simplified and palatable manner, if possible in the 16 constitutionally-recognised languages.
It also p It also pleaded with Ncube to improve on budget expenditure transparency.