AMBITIOUS capital projects by the government, under Joseph Made’s Agriculture and Rural Development ministry, are set to be aborted due to lack of funding, parliament&#
8217;s portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Rural Resources, Water Development and Resettlement heard this week.
The projects, to be carried out under various parastatals and departments, had seen Made apply for close to $11 trillion under the 2005 national budget, but the key ministry secured only $1 trillion.
Samuel Muvuti, chief executive of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and one of the hardest hit parastatals, told the parliamentary committee that of the $1,4 trillion chase, about 90% was to go towards covering grain subsidies — an area in which the bulk trading firm has a monopoly.
The small and big grain subsidy figure would translate into $1,2 trillion while the difference would be spent on other capital projects including a nationwide oil making venture, he said.
“We expected to start an oil extraction project and we had applied for $2,5 billion for the project. We also wanted to establish bakeries, flour making, rice packaging, stockfeeds manufacturing projects and refurbish silos,” Muvuti said on Tuesday.
Already, the grain monopoly has announced plans to procure as much as half a million tonnes of maize from South Africa to augment Zimbabwe’s low grain reserves, but it remains to be seen how Muvuti and his chairman Enock Kamushinda would make up for the funding deficit.
Proclaiming that GMB was losing money through contracting private transport operators to ferry grain countrywide, although he did not quantify the losses, the grain boss also said they intended buying a number of 30-tonne trucks to bolster their fleet and save money.
In that regard, Muvuti’s institution had applied for $8,5 billion for the trucks, but “nothing was allocated for these projects”.
Also affected is Made’s former employer the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda), which had requested $1,2 trillion, but was given only $14,3 billion — enough to cover only two projects.
Joseph Zirobwa, an official with Arda, told the committee that about 10 of their projects, mainly the on-going Chirundu irrigation scheme, 9 000 hectare land preparations at Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi holdings of 3 000 hectares would be affected.
“We were allocated only $14,3 billion, $8 billion for the Nuanetsi project and the difference for the mechanisation project, which include tillage projects,” Zirobwa said, emphasising the $8 billion Nuanetsi allocation was only enough to cover the outstanding tab of on-site contractors at the vast south-eastern Zimbabwe agrarian holding.
A Chinese company, picked on Harare’s preference to work with Far East countries, is the main contractor.
Other outstanding Nuanetsi obligations, Zirobwa said, amounted to $20 billion.
On the mechanisation project, which government hoped to strengthen another stuttering and under-funded parastatal the District Development Fund’s efforts, Arda had applied for $292 billion, but only received $6,3 billion from the Treasury.
The ministry’s Agricultural Engineering department has also been hit by insufficient funding, the committee was told.
It received $62 billion against a bid of about $236 billion, which officials in the department punned, saying, “it would not be possible to reclaim the country’s spot in agricultural production if engineering is not well funded”.
Observers said acting Finance minister Herbert Murerwa’s total agriculture vote exposed or undermined government’s assumption and claim that agriculture would rebound, and grow by 28% in the coming year.
“Agriculture, which contributes about 16% to total gross domestic product(GDP) and is the backbone of the economy, is expected to recover in 2005 after registering a relatively marginal decline of 3,3% in 2004.
“The sector is projected to grow by 28% in 2005,” Murerwa thundered in his November 25 budget presentation.