MDC Praises Biti's Budget Statement

Once again, the MDC showed unparalleled leadership in the Inclusive Government with a presentation of a robust, well balanced and professionally crafted national budget that captured the party values and people-centred development thrust to pluck out Zimbabwe from three decades of economic ruin and policy confusion.

Thursday’s national budget, a brain child of Finance Minister Tendai Biti and a result of extensive consultations countrywide, reflects a radical departure of previous national financial plans and projections in that it emphasises measurable growth targets, subjects itself to the needs of the poor, accepts and recognises the central role of civil servants and demonstrates the MDC’s solidarity with the peasantry.

The budget statement was anchored on the theme shared economy, shared development and shared transformation. Hon. Biti, the MDC Secretary General, deserves national commendation for unbridled sensitivity to all Zimbabweans; for a good piece of work; and for mitigating the historical burden on a nation previously at the mercy of hyper-inflation, social iniquity and general political wickedness.

Hon. Biti placed before Parliament a far reaching financial plan and budget, in a manner that silenced our usually vocal and misguided critics. Below are some of the highlights of the wide ranging proposals:

  • Making education, health and infrastructural allotments to public, church and private hospitals. This is designed to foster a political culture of inclusion by ensuring that the national cake is evenly shared countrywide.

  • For the first time in more than a decade, specific financial support is now available to senior citizens, the disabled and the vulnerable through a state safety net to cushion them from hardships. 

  • A US$15 million student support grant and loan fund is now in place. Student housing and additional facilities shall be given a facelift after state universities and other tertiary institutions received about US$50 million for an urgent overhaul. These institutions shall have access to new technology and equipment to create a conducive teaching and learning environment.

  • Nationally, Hon Biti allocated US$23million towards rehabilitation of 6,556 schools, the majority under local authorities. Pupil grants were raised from US$13.8 million to US$15,5 million to lessen the burden on School Development Associations.

  • The budget recognised the sacrifices made by civil servants, their patience and their resilience by doubling their salary bill, raising the workers’ bonus threshold and granting full medical cover to public workers and their families. The new measures will make it possible for these workers to take home a significant portion of their earnings.

  • The Minister slashed taxes and duties by a significant percentage to raise the people’s faith, confidence and trust; to erase any traces of dishonesty, curb smuggling and afford ordinary people access of essential imports.

  • Hon Biti raised the royalties from our gold and platinum mines to ensure that retention of benefits from finite mineral resources within the affected communities. He called for transparency in the mining of diamonds to abate possible public alarm over the extent of perceived leakages. He ring fenced future diamond sales under a separate fund for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.

  • Agriculture and food security remains a priority and Hon. Biti hedged the sector with an array of support schemes for communal, AI and A2 farmers; the winter and livestock cropping; and the resuscitation of irrigation infrastructure.

  • He set aside significant amounts to energy and power generation for a long term revival of the national mothballed manufacturing, mining and industrial sectors;

  • While keeping inflation in check and thus allowing Zimbabwe to move ahead at a terrific pace, Hon. Biti’s budget effectively halted the express decline of 50 percent of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product in the decade to 2008. The new pace of growth is expected to see agriculture and mining rise by 9.1 percent, while inflation remains at 4.5 percent – a situation that is universally accepted as normal.

  • The overall distribution of resources in the budget has been national. The completion of Tokwe-Mukosi, Gwayi-Shangani and Mtshabezi dams, abandoned by the previous regime, has been resuscitated.

  • Minister Biti, in order to open up the country, has committed national resources to refurbish the dilapidated road network through a raft of measures to enhance the capacity of urban and 60 rural district councils. Each of these will be allocated basic road maintenance equipment.

  • Even the police force, whose stations Hon. Biti said represent desolate colonial museums with archaic Remington typewriters, will from this year provide security in a congenial working climate after Hon Biti committed a specific allocation to enable them to computerise their offices and join the digital world. In particular, Hon. Biti placed US$3million on the table for an automated fingerprint identification system and database to raise the working environment of the police to world standard.

The MDC believes Hon. Biti’s job could have been much easier if the political environment had not been constantly interfered with and soiled through Zanu PF’s regular violations of the GPA and the former ruling party’s blatant refusal to implement the remaining outstanding issues of the Inter-Party Agreement of 2008 for the benefit of the people. What the MDC has achieved under the circumstances is a sign of greater things to come as we march into a new Zimbabwe.