Farirai Machivenyika Mr Speaker Sir
The Eighth Parliament is coming to an end following the opening of its fifth and last session last week and, Mr Speaker Sir, as it comes to an end, we expect parliamentarians to ensure that they carry out the remainder of their work diligently as asked of them by President Mugabe in his official opening speech.
In his address during the official opening of the Fifth Session of the Eighth Parliament last week, President Mugabe said the event came at a time when there was increased optimism in the economy due to the good agricultural season we had and mining.
The President laid out the legislative agenda for this session before the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, adding improvement of the business environment would be of paramount importance.
“This session also comes amid increased optimism for a stronger rebound in the national economy, largely buoyed by the present good performance in agriculture and mining.
The country has this year, succeeded in regaining its food self-sufficiency, on the back of a good rainy season and the introduction of the Command Agriculture Production Programme. Government is now working to consolidate agriculture through, among other things, investing more resources in water harvesting and irrigation development.
“To enhance national economic competitiveness and the country’s appeal as an investment destination, Government has embarked on reforms to improve the domestic business environment.
“A number of identified supportive legislative amendments have already been forwarded to this august House for action,” he said.
It cannot be overemphasised that the focus of Parliament and indeed of all us should be on improving the performance of the economy and Mr Speaker Sir, Parliament is one platform that should be at the forefront in driving towards that goal.
Mr Speaker Sir, this session, Parliament has its work cut out for it, from coming up with legislation to spur economic growth and also contributing in the crafting of a National Budget that will also provide a platform for investment in the economy. It is therefore commendable that Parliament has already started consultations on the 2018 National Budget.
Mr Speaker Sir, the National Budget is important in laying out Government plans and programmes and also provides investors, be it foreign or local, with directions on what Government has planned for the economy.
Government has embarked on a number of programmes to turn around and grow the economy and it is the generality of Zimbabweans’ expectations that Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa will provide the necessary guidelines.
As President Mugabe said, Government embarked on the Command Agriculture programme last year as a way of boosting maize production and making the country food self-reliant and its success prompted the extension of the concept to other crops like cotton and soyabeans and also livestock.
Mr Speaker Sir, to ensure continued success of this noble programme we hope that it will receive the support it deserves from Treasury while also outlining other incentives, if any, for private players to come in. The programme offers hope for the growth of agriculture and ultimately provides necessary raw materials to industry.
It’s not in dispute that agriculture is the backbone of our economy and all efforts should be made to ensure that we enjoy similar success to the one we had this past season. Mr Speaker Sir, another important task Parliament would be grappling with this session is the crafting of the 2018 National Budget.
It is commendable that the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development has already started consultations on this important process in the management of the country’s economy.
It is also a fervent hope that consultations would be held far and wide to ensure that Government captures as much opinion as possible to come up with a budget that satisfies the majority. This will be not an easy thing to do given the myriad challenges the economy is facing.
We also hope that as the budget is being crafted for presentation and approval by Parliament, legislators take their time to analyse it before making their decision on whether to pass or reject it.
On countless occasions, Mr Speaker Sir, we have seen parliamentarians passing a budget and then go on to complain about things in that same budget they would have passed.
This has happened countless times and shows that legislators would not have read and or understood the contents of the budget. This ultimately makes Parliament a rubber stamping institution despite all the powers it enjoys under the country’s constitution.
Given the numerous training workshops parliamentarians have gone through since coming into office in 2013, we expect, Mr Speaker Sir, that they are now familiar with what is expected of them when dealing with such an important issue as the national budget.
The fearlessness shown by parliamentarians in rejecting the appointment of Mr Mike Ndudzo as the new Auditor General is what we expect of them when debating the budget.
This will not only ensure that Treasury takes the legislators seriously, but also that we have an end product that takes the nation forward. Mr Speaker Sir, we reiterate that this session, coming just before next year’s watershed elections, the nation will be watching the performance of both backbenchers and ministers and those who under-perform will be judged by the electorate at the polls.
President Mugabe could not have been more precise when he warned parliamentarians and ministers that they should behave in a manner expected of honourable members.
“We, therefore, expect robust and well-informed debate from all members who should always be present, punctual, disciplined, and professional and of impeccable parliamentary conduct.
“Those who don’t attend, lack impeccable parliamentary conduct. Much more is expected from ministers who should lead by example.” Given that Parliament is sustained by taxpayers’ money, it is of paramount importance that the money be put to good use to ensure improvement of people’s livelihoods.