NEXT week government, currently struggling to balance its books, let alone pay civil servants meaningful salaries, plans to splash millions of dollars on a three-day retreat for 350 legislators on travel, allowances and accommodation at the swish Elephant Hills Intercontinental Hotel and equally ritzy Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls.
Editor’s Memo with Brian Mangwende
Supposedly, some lawmakers will opt to drive while others prefer to fly to the Falls, but the burden of funding the retreat lies squarely on the shoulders of the already burdened taxpayers.
But where is the money coming from, considering we have been repeatedly told government’s financial position is precarious?
The Hansard, a printed transcript of parliamentary debates, wrote:
“The Speaker (Jacob Mudenda) reminded honourable members to confirm their attendance of the 2013 pre-budget seminar which will be held at the Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls, with the public relations department.”
Much as the budget entails political decisions about government spending and how it should be financed, making it extremely important in defining government’s intentions for the next 12 months, this is something that can be deliberated on and concluded in Harare, the seat of parliament.
Surely, the lavish spending is deleterious to the country’s ailing economy.
And coming at a time when about three quarters of the population is living in abject poverty, there is poor service delivery, acute power shortages and other major challenges, this is an unwarranted waste of scarce resources that Zimbabwe can ill afford.
From past experience, this will be nothing other than a mere talk show. Why can’t MPs congregate at parliament as they usually do when in session and thrash out issues there? Why be extravagant in a sea of poverty?
The government sees it fit to spend millions to educate the majority of new legislators on the budget process in a nation racked by poverty, where 13 million people survive on less than a dollar a day.
This clearly reflects a political elite that has completely lost touch with reality. It also indicates failure by our rulers to break from the past.
They cannot be left to continue along the wrongful path again and still expect a different result. In whose interest are these lavish indabas attended not only by the MPs, but also include a host of ministers’ security personnel?
The country should save scarce resources for developmental purposes such as service delivery, agriculture and upgrading of infrastructure.
There is no doubt the Zanu PF government is struggling to implement the populist policies that anchored its campaign for the July 31 general elections which it won not without rigging claims.
The party now needs to review its priorities in line with common sense.
Surely, the money to be spent in Victoria Falls could have been better used for the provision of electricity, clean water and to ameliorate any of the plethora of challenges troubling the populace.
Why should the majority of Zimbabweans continue to suffer while the ruling elite splash obscene sums of the taxpayers’ money on talk shows.
Government must, as a matter of urgency, concentrate on delivering on its lofty election promises as espoused by the Zanu PF manifesto to drag the nation out of its socio-economic quagmire.