This month’s mid-term budget review must attempt to buck the trend and address real issues. In the past the presentations of these economic blueprints have been turned into occasions where those who populate the corridors of power have had occasion to display their pomp and circumstance.
The Zimbabwean story does not lie with those who the general populace has elected to lead. It does not lie with this elite’s luxurious lifestyles where they are pampered with perquisites that belie the country’s true economic status.
Zimbabwe’s real story lies in hunger stricken communities beyond the paved highways and world-class malls that this elite inhabits. The true story is somewhere close to those whose share of the ZW$421,6 billion (about US$5 billion) 2021 budget is a measly US$3,5 monthly social welfare stipend doled out ostensibly to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic; that is if these wretched of the earth ever get to lay their hands on it.
The budget gathering — bringing Zimbabwe’s lawmakers — is slowly mutating into a caucus for the elite to consolidate their wealth. It is littered with empty promises for those already trapped in poverty. It is being used as a weapon to perpetuate and give a seal of approval to the sheer penury that the majority Zimbabweans are living through. Zimbabwe is in a mess — 160% annual inflation, 500 000 job losses last year, over eight million in abject poverty, 80% unemployment levels and catastrophic infant mortality rates.
The national debt has barreled over US$10 billion. The executive has not been held to account for its acts of omission and commission because lawmakers have been whipped into line by the cars, subsidised stands and other freebies they get.
This has been laid bare by the Auditor-General, whose reports are turning into another charade because little or no action is taken despite elaborate cases of theft and deliberate mismanagement that they expose.This is the calamity that this month’s midterm budget review must attempt to reverse and get Zimbabwe working again. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube must set a clear path towards a departure from the past, never mind the fact that none will hold him to account.
The budget holds the key to the long anticipated economic turnaround. How a grandma in Malipati will access food must be clearly laid out in there, and executed. How and where a grandfather in Chief Mola’s area will be treated for tsetse-fly-induced illnesses must also be explained and executed. If that plan fails, Zimbabweans have a right to know what went wrong.
Zimbabweans cannot continue funding these voluminous high-sounding blueprints for academic adventure.
They should not be relegated to spectators when the elite continue to clinch carefully crafted lucrative public tenders and other sweetheart deals at their expense.
The time has gone when budget statements were for show; the country is looking for substance rather than grandstanding.
Ncube should put on the table the evidence of all the claims he has made about budget surpluses and lay to rest the increasing solidifying doubts surrounding his probity.