LEGISLATORS in the House of Assembly slammed the inclusive Government yesterday
for failing tospeak with one voice on policy matters and steer the country out of economic challenges.
The MPs said this while debating the Mid Term Fiscal Policy review presented to Parliament by Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week.
Minister Biti presented a bleak outlook on the economy, cutting projected growth from 9,4 percent to 5,6 percent and slashing the US$4 billion budget by 10 percent to US$3,6 billion.
Portfolio Committee chairperson on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, Cde Paddy Zhanda, slammed policy discord in Cabinet.
“The downward revision of the budget from US$4 billion to US$3,6 billion and the economic growth rate from 9,4 percent to 5,6 percent is indicative of the poor economic performance of the country.
“Of concern to the committee is the continued discord in the Government of National Unity. The GNU should now be called the Government of National Discord,” he said.
He said this in reference to the squabbles between Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube and his Mines and Mining Development counterpart Obert Mpofu that threaten to derail the implementation a deal the Government entered with Essar of India to revive Ziscosteel.
Cde Zhanda said political bickering affected national interests and livelihood of the people.
“We are appealing to the Government to be serious in addressing the economic situation in the country. We cannot allow for politics to continue taking centre stage in the country,” he said.
He said there was no way the economy would improve without addressing the issues of energy shortages.
“The economy has a host of problems and we have to start with first things first. How do we turn around the economy with energy shortages ? Mining, agriculture . . . all need energy. We are dealing with an economy that hinges its turnaround on agric and mining all need energy yet this was not addressed,” he said.
Cde Zhanda said the inclusive Government failed to address power problems in the past two years.
He said there was corruption, while the Government failed to engage in Research and Development to assist farmers improve productivity.
Contributing to the same debate, Bulawayo East representative Ms Tabitha Khumalo (MDC-T), slammed the inconsistencies in Government.
“The minister brought a budget that was approved by Cabinet and then after the presentation another minister comes the following day in newspapers lampooning the same budget.
“What are you saying to us backbenchers, what are you saying to the ordinary people when we expect you to be a team,” she said.
Ms Khumalo took a swipe at people not paying their electricity bills including high ranking Government officials.
“It is unfortunate that nature does not allow a vacuum. You do not pay civil servants there will be demonstrations, you do not pay electricity there will be power cuts, you do not pay water there will be cholera,” she said.
Ms Khumalo urged Government to ensure more revenue from diamonds was raised.
“The money from Chiadzwa must go to Treasury, Chiadzwa must be owned by the State, We have money but we have misplaced priorities.
“If the Cabinet does not want to deal with the question of Chiadzwa then I am going to urge the people of Zimbabwe to go and invade Chiadzwa,” she said.
Makoni Central representative, Mr Weber Chinyadza, said nearly all ministries were not following laid down accounting procedures as stipulated by the Public Finance
Management Act and various Treasury regulations.
He said this was contributing to abuse of resources and called for the dismissal of such ministers.
“This cannot be allowed to subsist and the errant minister and officials should be relieved of their duties,” he said.
Mr Chinyadza said it was critical the Cabinet just like a soccer team play as one if it is expected to win and castigated belief that only one minister would be able to rectify the challenges facing the country.
Uzumba representative, Cde Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, said Minister Biti should have addressed the plight of communal people and small scale miners.
He said these people had an important role to play and contributed significantly to treasury.
In his response Minister Biti acknowledged the dysfunctionality of the inclusive Government.
“The state of the economy is a microcosm of the general sickness and dysfunctionality in our society and in our nation,” he said.
He pleaded with the principals in the inclusive Government to provide strong economic leadership to ensure the country’s growth.
“There is absolutely no exaggeration at all the inclusive Government is dysfunctional, it has failed to transcend the make up of party politics cards and as a result half baked statements continue to be made, illiterate statements continue to be made, cheap points scoring continue to be made in the end who suffers, is not the person who sits in Cabinet but the ordinary people,” he said.
Minister Biti said his Mid Term Policy review was a crisis statement due to depressed revenue inflows.
Minister Biti reiterated that diamond revenues had underperformed in the first half of the year and said if it had been to the contrary the budget would not have been cut.
He said diamond production had increased from 2,5 million carats to 4,5 million carats this year but revenues had been stagnant at US$41 million according to figures from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
He said Anjin Investment was the main culprit in not contributing revenue to fiscus.
He said Mbada with smaller operations had contributed US$2 million in Pay As You Earn, while Anjin brought in US$200 000 to Treasury.
Minister Biti said because Government had 50 percent shareholding in mines at Chiadzwa, it was expected to get more revenue through dividends, royalties and taxes.
The minister said Anjin operations were like exploitation reminiscent of the colonial period.
“It can’t be a one way traffic of extraction (without benefits to Zimbabwe) that would make Cecil John Rhodes look like an angel…we are going to continue speaking about diamonds,” he said.
He added: “Where we got US$41 million we should have got US$285 million.
“To accept US$41 million it means we are stupid, we are fools, we are idiots. The Chinese are saying to themselves that we found our fools in Zimbabwe.
“In other countries they are building freeways, dams, real development and not these hotels they are building here,” Minister Biti said.
On indigenisation Minister Biti reiterated that Government had discussed the matter and agreed that it would not apply to Foreign Direct Investment.
He said even the President had approved the changes.
“I went to the Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cde Robert Mugabe and we agreed on this and we are going to implement it because without FDI we cannot grow this economy, we cannot create jobs FDI is the oxygen we need,” he said.