Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday approved the government's economic and social plan and state budget for 2014, with the majority Frelimo Party voting in favour, and the two opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), voting against.
The plan sets a target for economic growth next year of eight percent. The other key macro-economic targets are to keep the average 12 monthly inflation rate during the year to no more than 5.6 per cent, and to constitute net international reserves of 3.023 billion dollars, enough to cover 3.7 months of imports of goods and services.
The government aims for exports to reach 4.774 billion dollars in 2014 - a 21 per cent increase on the projected figure of 3.788 billion dollars for this year.
Calling on deputies to vote against the plan, Antonio Timba of Renamo declared it did not reflect the debate in the Assembly over the previous two days. Since he dismissed all the Frelimo deputies as “flatterers of the government”, he meant that the plan does not reflect the positions of the opposition parties
For the MDM, Alcinda da Conceicao criticized the plan for encouraging tobacco production rather than phasing it out in favour of growing more food.
Citing the main targets of the plan, Frelimo deputy Sabado Malendza said that “rejecting it means perpetuating the suffering of the Mozambican people”.
His colleague, Edmundo Galiza-Matos Junior, accused the opposition of failing to bring “concrete proposals” to the Assembly. “To use this podium to make political speeches without any analysis means nothing”, he said. “You fail to debate anything in depth, you fail to debate ideas”.
The first reading of the resolution approving the plan was passed by 174 Frelimo votes while the 45 opposition deputies present voted against.
As the Assembly moved immediately to a second reading, Renamo submitted a wrecking amendment. Where the first paragraph of the resolution read the plan “is approved”, Renamo wanted to substitute the words “is rejected”.
Since this would nullify a vote that has already been taken, it is an illegitimate procedure. Yet Renamo does it every year. The amendment was rejected by the same margin of 174 votes to 45.
Giving the Renamo “declaration of vote”, Leopoldo Ernesto claimed the plan is “no more than a political party leaflet”. Based on a partial reading of last year's United Nations Human Development Report, he claimed that Mozambique “is the third worst country in the world”.
Summing up the Frelimo position, Azevedo Mussibora declared “voting against the plan is voting against the development of Mozambique and against the well-being of the people”.
As for the budget, this had now been amended in the light of criticisms made by the Assembly's Plan and Budget Commission (CPO), increasing expenditure in order to accommodate the 30 vessels (24 fishing ships and six patrol boats) ordered by EMATUM (Mozambican Tuna Company) from a French shipyard.
As revised, the budget authorizes public expenditure of 240.89 billion meticais (8.03 billion US dollars) in 2014. State revenue (mostly taxes) is forecast at 147.37 billion meticais, leaving a deficit of 93.52 billion meticais, to be covered mainly by foreign grants and loans.
As with the plan, Renamo also submitted a wrecking amendment to the budget law replaced “is approved” by “is rejected”. More deputies had trickled into the chamber by now, and the budget was passed by 178 Frelimo votes against 49 from Renamo and the MDM.
Both opposition parties insisted that the budget does not provide enough money for agriculture. Jose Manuel de Sousa of the MDM said it does not meet the African Union target of allocating “10 per cent of GDP” to agriculture.
But there is no such target. 10 per cent of Mozambique's projected 2014 GDP would be 1.7 billion US dollars. The African Union target is that 10 per cent of budget expenditure should go to agriculture: and in fact the government intends to spend more than that.
According to Finance Minister Manuel Chang, 10 per cent of the 2013 budget was allocated to agriculture and rural development, and the figure in the original 2014 budget rose to 11 per cent. Even with the changes made by the CPO, it is still 10.32 per cent.
Both opposition parties complained of supposedly enormous sums being spent on the President's office, and on “repressive” bodies to the detriment of education, health and other areas that are key to poverty reduction.
But from the figures given in the revised budget documents, it is easy to calculate that the total allocation to the priority sectors for poverty alleviation is 135.72 billion meticais. This is 64.6 per cent of total expenditure, once debt servicing and state financial operations have been excluded. Education accounts for 18.1 per cent, health for 9.1 per cent, infrastructures (such as roads and water supply) for 15.3 per cent, and agriculture for 10.3 per cent.
But the sectors that so concern the two opposition parties receive relatively little - the budget for the armed forces (FADM) is 2.2 per cent of total expenditure. 0.6 per cent is allocated to the President's office, and 0.9 per cent to the state intelligence and security service (SISE).
The allocation for the Ministry of Defence, however, has risen to 5.8 per cent of the budget. But this is entirely because the purchase of the EMATUM fishing ships and patrol boats has been placed in the Defence Ministry's capital expenditure line.
Without the EMATUM boats, defence ministry expenditure would have been 0.6 per cent of the total.