THE long-awaited 2014 national budget is likely to be announced mid-next month amid revelations that the Ministry of Finance has instructed government printers — Printflow — to be on standby to print the fiscal statement mid-December.
Although dates could not be ascertained this week, top government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that indications are that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa will announce the budget during the second week of December after returning from China to seek a US$10 billion financial rescue package.
This emerged during a recent meeting of Printflow top management and Finance ministry officials where the printers quizzed government over the exact dates when the budget would be printed.
“The Finance ministry representatives could not explain when the budget would be printed, but indicated that Printflow must be on standby around mid-December,” said a government official.
The Ministry of Finance is supposed to send the budget for printing at Printflow at midnight on the eve of the budget presentation to avoid leaking of the critical fiscal statement.
Printflow officials requested printing dates since they had hired casual workers this month to facilitate the printing of the blue book, only for Chinamasa to postpone the budget presentation from the traditional mid-November announcement.
Chinamasa said “he needed more time”, insisting he would meet the constitutional requirement of announcing the statement by January 2014.
There are also grave concerns over Printflow’s capacity to print about 400 budget copies required by parliamentarians on presentation day because the company is facing viability challenges. Sources said the printers were seeking around US$3,5 million to buy new equipment and turn around the fortunes of the company.
The company only received about US$1 million as budgetary allocation during Tendai Biti’s tenure while nothing has been released under Chinamasa’s administration.
It has also emerged that due to the challenges facing Printflow, only three copies of the budget were printed last year which were given to Biti, President Robert Mugabe and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“Judging from what happened last year, it is possible that only the minister, president and his deputy will get copies of the budget. The situation at the printers is depressing,” said a government source.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Chinamasa were fruitless as he was away in Kuwait.
Chinamasa faces a daunting task of helping resuscitate the economy which has been on a downward trend since Zanu PF won controversial elections on July 31. Initially, economic growth projections were estimated at 5% before they were reduced to 3,4% due to a myriad of challenges stalking the country.
The country is, among other stubborn challenges, battling a biting liquidity crisis, electricity and water shortages — an indication that the economy still has a long way to go to recover.
In a frantic bid to revive the faltering economy, the Zanu PF government has adopted the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.