13 December 2012

Mozambique: Opposition Misreads the Budget - Again

Photo: Renamo
Leader of the Mozambican National Resistance, Afonso Dhlakama.

Maputo — Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang on Thursday rejected opposition claims that the 2013 budget he presented to the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, is dominated by expenditure on the President’s office, on the Defence and Interior Ministries, and on the State Intelligence Service (SISE).

Repeatedly deputies from the two opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), had claimed that more money is earmarked for these bodies than for poverty reduction.

Thus the Renamo group in the Assembly’s Social Affairs Commission declared “the government continues to allocate enormous sums to SISE instead of prioritizing increases in the sectors of education, health and water supply, which have suffered cuts in foreign funding”.

The Renamo group in the Plan and Budget Commission said much the same: “the government is allocating enormous slices of the budget to institutions that do not contribute to the socio-economic development of the country, such as the President’s office, the Presidential Guard, and the Defence and Interior ministries to the detriment of the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Education, Public Works and Transport”.

Both MDM and Renamo deputies made the same claims during the plenary debate on Thursday. MDM deputy Alcinda da Conceicao lamented the “large increases” given to the President’s Office and to SISE, while Renamo deputy Felizarda Castro declared “the government says that education, health and water are priorities, but it strengthens the budget for the organs of repression”.

Chang replied that such claims were simply untrue. Between them, all the institutions the opposition said were receiving too much money had been allocated just 6.7 per cent of the 2013 budget.

Chang broke this down as follows: President’s office – 0.8 per cent; Presidential guard – 0.4 per cent; Defence Ministry – 0.7 per cent; Interior Ministry – 3.7 per cent; provincial police commands – 0.2 per cent; SISE – 0.9 per cent.

In contrast, the priority sectors for poverty reduction were receiving about 71.5 per cent of the total budget, an increase on the 66.9 per cent they were allocated in the 2012 budget. The main beneficiaries of the 2013 budget are education (18.6 per cent); agriculture and rural development (12.6 per cent); health (10.3 per cent); roads (10.7 per cent); and water supply and public works (5.9 per cent).

“It is not true that the government is prioritizing defence and security”, exclaimed Chang.

But how did Renamo and the MDM manage to misread the budget so badly. A clue can be found in the speech made by Renamo deputy Jose Samo Gudo, who declared that the budget allocates 1.09 billion meticais to the President’s office, 628.4 million to the Defence Ministry, 1.17 billion to SISE, 5.47 billion to the Interior Ministry, but only 512 million to the Agriculture Ministry and its subordinate bodies.

All these figures are accurate – but they only refer to running costs at central level. Samo Gudo had completely ignored the entire capital budget, and all the provincial expenditure.

The budget is a complex set of documents but Renamo had simply not bothered to read it all. For the budget is not only divided into running costs and capital costs, but is also separated into expenditure made centrally, and the expenditure decentralized to the 11 provinces.

The expenditure on the President’s office, SISE, and the defence and interior ministries is all concentrated centrally. In contrast, most education, health, infrastructure and agriculture spending takes place in the provinces. By looking only at central level running costs the Renamo and MDM deputies had given a completely misleading impression of the budget.

For example, the education allocation for Nampula province (the provincial education directorate, plus the two state universities in the province) is 1.48 billion meticais – more than the total allocation for the President’s Office or for SISE.

Once the central and provincial components are brought together the percentage shares of the budget are as Chang gave them.

There is no excuse for the opposition’s blunder – for they made the same mistake in 2011 and 2010, and the government patiently corrected them then.

Making the same error year after year shows either a very short memory, or a deliberate intention to hoodwink the public.

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