Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday approved the government’s Economic and Social Plan and the State Budget for 2013, with opposition deputies still claiming that it priorities expenditure on “unproductive” and “repressive” bodies, rather than on poverty reduction.
Clearly Finance Minister Manuel Chang had wasted his breath on Thursday when he had patiently explained to deputies of the two opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), that in fact most of the budget – 71.5 per cent – is earmarked for the priority sectors in the fight against poverty, and only 6.7 per cent to the institutions to which the opposition is so hostile - the President’s Office, the Presidential Guard, the Defence and Interior Ministries and the State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE).
Perhaps Renamo and the MDM work on the famous principle of Lewis Carroll that “What I tell you three times is true” – except that they said it many more times than three. Almost every opposition deputy who spoke on Friday made the same claim – that the budget prioritises institutions such as the President’s Office and SISE.
For Renamo, Antonio Timba declared that the budget provided “enormous resources” to repressive agencies “as if the country were at war”, while Alcinda da Conceicao of the MDM said that insufficient funds were devoted to agriculture while the budget “prioritises unproductive sectors such as SISE”.
From Renamo deputy, Essa Muzae came the same song – she claimed that huge sums were being allocated to the President’s Office, SISE and the Defence and Interior Ministry “to the detriment of the Ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture, Public Works and Transport”.
Ivone Soares, giving the final Renamo statement in the debate, claimed that in the budget there was “no sign of any commitment to the fight against poverty”, and that in fact the plan and budget constituted “an assault against democracy”.
Areas such as agricultural development were being neglected “in favour of repressive bodies. This is a fact”, she declared.
But saying something is a fact does not make it one. Anyone with a pocket calculator can add up the budget for running costs and capital costs, earmarked for central and provincial level, and the result shows that 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).
In contrast, only 0.8 per cent of the budget is allocated to the President’s Office and 0.9 per cent to SISE.
The plan and budget were both passed by 172 votes of deputies from the ruling Frelimo Party to 50 votes from Renamo and the MDM.
The debate was prolonged by Renamo’s traditional wrecking amendments. Thus immediately after a vote was taken approving the plan, Renamo submitted an amendment to replace the words “the plan is approved” by “the plan is rejected”. It did the same with the budget.
This is an illegitimate procedure, but one which Renamo follows every year, and which the majority Frelimo Party has always tolerated. It probably takes less time to vote the Renamo amendments down than to engage in a procedural wrangle explaining why they are not genuine amendments at all and are thus out of order.
The budget envisages total public expenditure in 2013 of 175 billion meticais (about 5.87 billion US dollars, at current exchange rates). The state’s domestic revenue is forecast at 114 billion meticais, leaving a deficit of 61 billion meticais, which will largely be covered by foreign grants and loans.