THE cash-strapped government spent nearly US$82 million on pensions for war veterans, ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees in the first nine months of this year, chewing up a substantial chunk of recurrent expenditure.
The money spent on war veterans was higher than that spent by some ministries.
Figures of expenditure up to September 2015 outlined in the estimates of expenditure by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa show that US$69 845 124 million was paid out as war veterans pensions, while government spent US$11 541 250 on ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees’ pensions between January and September this year.
This comes at a time government is struggling to meet critical financial obligations such as paying civil servants’ salaries and has been forced to stagger their bonuses for this year. Government’s bankruptcy is further evidenced by its failure to pay staff at all state universities who are still to get their full November salaries. Lecturers are yet to be paid part of their August salaries, prompting Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo to issue a statement this week stating that “this unacceptable situation” would be urgently redressed.
President Robert Mugabe added the War Veterans ministry in December last year despite concerns the country’s cabinet was too large in relation to the country’s population and resources. This was despite Chinamasa’s promise to cut down on government spending in his 2015 budget statement delivered in November 2015,only for Mugabe to announce an expanded cabinet next month, with Chris Mutsvangwa as War Vets minister.
The outlay on war veteran’s pensions is more than four times the US$20 250 542 spent by the Ministry of Transport during the same period. The Transport ministry is tasked with the critical responsibility of rehabilitation of key infrastructure such as roads, railways and airports. Some of the roads have become death traps.
Economist John Robertson said while government has to meet its commitment to pay war veterans, its patronage system has more than doubled the number of war veterans to be paid, including those who did not qualify to receive the pension.
“The numbers that increased for payment is part of the patronage system where undeserving individuals were included on the list of those to be paid,” said Robertson.
He said the addition of war collaborators to the list years later has added more pressure on the shrinking revenue base which has worsened government’s failure to meet critical obligations.