Budget formulation process should be regulated by law

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A LAWYERS grouping with interests in legal and parliamentary affairs, Veritas, has suggested that the budget formulation process be regulated by an Act of Parliament to ensure that government facilitates stakeholders’ participation and debate on budgetary and macro-economic policy issues.

Owen Gagare

This comes after government failed to give ample time to individuals and interests groups to give their input into the US$4 billion 2016 budget presented by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament last Thursday.

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Chinamasa’s budget, according to analysts, was lacklustre, pedestrian and failed to come up with an economic stimulus and reform packages. Economists have predicted a tough 2016 for Zimbabweans given Chinamasa’s static budget, which reflected the shrinking economy and a corresponding reduction in government’s revenue base.

Although the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development produced a pre-Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) in October, it was only released to the public a week before budget presentation, at the behest of the lawyer grouping, rendering the release academic since most processes had been completed. The BSP provided an overview of the economy and outlook projections up to 2018, reflecting the economy’s potential capacity as well as downside risks.

In the BSP, the ministry encouraged stakeholders to submit their input directly at the ministry’s offices at the New Government Office Complex, through email or during public consultative meetings. The BSP was however said to have been available to legislators who attended the pre-budget in Victoria Falls which started on October 30, but Veritas argued that time for public input was still not enough. “Even that was too late, if the purpose was to facilitate stakeholder/public participation in the budget formulation process.

Interested members of the public, for instance, would not have been able to lobby MPs ahead of the seminar, in the hope of having an impact on budget formulation,” Veritas says.

“It has been suggested that the budget formulation process should be regulated in more detail by an Act of Parliament, as it is in other African countries where there is a statutory timetable allowing ampler time for stakeholders and the public to respond to and enrich the process.

“That suggestion merits serious consideration. The Public Finance Management Act would be a suitable home for statutory provisions of this sort.”

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