21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Focus Budget On Growth - Zhanda

PARLIAMENTARY Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment chairman Mr Paddy Zhanda has called on Finance Minister Tendai Biti to explore measures to grow the economy in order to increase revenue for State coffers. Mr Zhanda was speaking during a radio interview on Monday with Star FM senior presenter Mr Innocent

Tshuma on the 2013 National Budget presented last week.

"Our emphasis from a Parliamentary point of view is not on the allocated aspect of resources, but is how we get this to grow.

"How do we get this economy to perform, so that when the economy performs, we grow the resource envelope and the issue of . . . resources becomes an important tool?" he said.

He implored the minister to focus on ways to address key areas of power shortage, factory closures, creating employment, increasing agricultural productivity and access to markets.

Mr Zhanda stressed the need to enhance local productivity to close the huge gap between exports of around US$8 billion and imports of about US$3,5 billion annually.

Mr Zhanda noted that Minister Biti tried under the circumstances of limited fiscal space to equitably cover all critical areas. But he said that with recurrent expenditure gobbling up to 73 percent of the Budget the distribution of resources had little significance as very little went to capital projects.

Mr Zhanda said if only Zimbabwe could afford US$8 billion to US$10 billion then debate could centre on how much is allocated to key areas of infrastructure, education and health.

But Mr Zhanda said it was baffling why the Government took time to decide on some critical, but straight forward issues such as enforcing its policy for development of key economic enablers such as power, road and rail infrastructure.

Minister Biti last Thursday presented a US$3,8 billion budget, but it was obvious he had to perform a delicate balancing act to cover the country's diverse competing needs.

Mr Zhanda said the Budget, to an extent, represented what the Parliamentary Committee gathered during its consultations, adding the qualitative nature of the publics input into the 2013 National Budget was encouraging.

Speaking during the same radio interview Southern African Parliamentary Trust economic analyst Mr Rongai Chizema said the minister did his best under limited resources.

"He had to revise his GDP projections for 2012 given the unfolding economic situation on the ground. He revised downwards to about 4,4 percent 2012 and 5 percent for 2013.

"That clearly reads what is on the ground and the underperformance in key sectors like in agriculture."

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