THE opposition MDC yesterday said Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s silence on currency distortions in the 2019 National Budget presented on Thursday demonstrated government’s reluctance to deal with the root of the problems that have seen prices pegged in the local bond note shooting through the roof.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Observers have also expressed concerns that the pricing of basic commodities would remain beyond the reach of the majority of citizens earning their keep in bond notes.
Retailers have resorted to pegging their prices in United States dollars — which are currently scarce on the market — while customers wanting to pay in bond notes or plastic money have to pay the US dollar price.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said his party believed the budget was a self-conflicted document, with nothing to celebrate as most of the reforms proposed were built on quick sand.
Ncube presented his budget with a raft of reforms meant to cut spending and inspire confidence in the local economy — something which some analysts said was a positive move — but failure to deal with currency discrepancy is set to make life difficult for the majority of citizens.
“The lack of clarity on currency issue is at the centre of the multi pricing system and a decisive Minister ought to bite the bullet and make a decision on the matter,” party Mafume said.
“Yet, Mthuli, in his budget, ignores the distortions being caused by the bond note. He proves beyond reasonable doubt that he is scared of the raw State power which is in the hands of Zanu PF hardliners and securocratic oligarchs, who need to maintain a printing Press of sorts for purposes of patronage.”
Mafume described government’s proposal to arrest run-away expenditure as “pub talk”, as they will continue printing bond notes so that they can fund Zanu PF activities and the lifestyles of the elite.
Mafume said Ncube should have proposed the demonetising of the bond note and revert to a proper multi-currency regime, outlining a path towards joining the rand monetary union.
He said there was a foreign currency crisis in the country because of the unproductive environment affecting Zimbabwe’s industrial sector.
The opposition also said it was disturbed by the marginal allocation to independent commissions and failure to deal decisively with the land issue, among other topical matters.
“With all due respect, this budget is a continuation of the old order of economic lethargy, economic destruction, corruption and patronage. It does not even address the issue of the usurious 2c a dollar this government is fleecing from innocent Zimbabweans.
“The token reduction of 5% from the salaries of the well-heeled is so measly it will not make any positive impact,” he said.
Other stakeholders who spoke to NewsDay Weekender said the requirement on car importers to pay duty in hard cash made no sense, given that workers did not receive their salaries in hard cash.
Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation (VISET) described the budget as “an economic horror script”, especially for those eking out a living in the informal sector.
“Hence, we state at this stage that the 2019 Budget is an instrument of economic attack on the poor and struggling masses while simultaneously opening up Zimbabwe for massive exploitation by foreign capital,” said VISET executive director Samuel Wadzai.
He said the budget dashed whatever hopes they had of seeing informal sector players evolving into big formal businesses.
“The policy pronouncements via the national budget have dealt a heavy blow on the formalisation of the informal sector drive. A cocktail of taxes and payments demanded by government will only push the informal sector into retreat,” he said
Combined Harare Residents Association Mfundo Mlilo said the budget was full of contradictions, and Ncube failed to take the bold steps needed to deal comprehensively with the country’s soci-economic challenges.
He also said there was insincerity on the budget allocations and priority was misplaced.
“The budget is contradictory because on the other hand, it attempts to give a corrective diagnosis of the Zimbabwean problems, but on the other, he cherry picks what to address. The minister understands the problems that we are in, but when you go into the contents of his statement, you don’t see any commitment to deal with the real problems,” Mlilo said.