Business Focus with Victoria Ruzvidzo
Presenting a National Budget or a mid-term review statement has never been an easy feat for any Minister of Finance here or anywhere else in the world no matter how good the economy is performing. There are always issues that need careful treading and expectations are always high the minister will deliver a package that offers a better tomorrow.
The task becomes more arduous in a challenged economy such as ours where so much is out of place, requiring some mastery to figure it all out and introduce measures to redress the situation.
Indeed, fiscal policies play a defining role in the path the economy should follow no wonder there is so much excitement around their announcements.
Faced with a myriad of challenges in the last few years, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, as with his predecessors, has always put up a brave face as he presents measures that Government, with input from the private sector and other stakeholders, would have crafted to address economic challenges.
Whether the concoction improves the economy or not, is something that usually audited as the year progresses.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been limping for a long time and hopes are always high that Minister Chinamasa’s briefcase will contain the prescription that will deal decisively with some of the ills afflicting the economy.
Therefore, so much is expected from Minister Chinamasa today. How far have we gone as an economy since January? How effective have the measures put in place in the 2015 Budget been?
What does the future hold for this economy? What must we all do do get things right?
Is the Zimbabwe dollar coming back soon? A question that has always been on most lips despite assurances that the local currency will be re-introduced only when we the situation becomes right in terms of production levels and other prerequisites.
These are some of the questions that will need answers from Minister Chinamasa this afternoon. Not that the answers are easy to come by but Minister Chinamasa is expected to offer a few goodies to all or most constituencies of this population, not least of all the airtime vendor on Samora Machel Avenue and Sam Nujoma Street who will surely wave in excitement as he sees the minister’s car pass by. With a bit more grace, he/she might even have a climpse of the traditional briefcase containing the all important statement that even the World Bank president will also be anticipating.
Of course, the fact that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority missed its first half target by 6 percent compounds the situation for Government. Even in times that they exceed target, Government has remained constrained financially so you can imagine the effects of failing to meet the target on its purse.
Zimra chairperson Mrs Willia Bonyongwe cited such challenged as an illiquid market, company closures, low production capacity, power shortages and retrenchments as affecting main tax lines such as Pay As You Earn, Value Added Tax and import duty.
Indeed, Zimbabwe’s tax base has narrowed in the last decade or sore due to depressed economic activity.
Usually a great performer, VAT inflows have plummeted 33 percent while individual tax collections were 3 percent lower than anticipated.
But it is in this regard that Minister Chinamasa must prove why he is Minister of Finance because much is expected of him despite these impediments.
How can Government increase its revenue under these circumstances? Where will it get funding for capital projects such as infrastructure development?
Indeed, it’s not a comfortable position that the minister finds himself in but it is one which he must confront and seek to emerge victorious.
Usually in the few days before Budget announcements, Ministry of Finance officials experience sleepless nights as they try to balance figures that will obviously be at a tangent with what they will be expecting while a lot of ends need tying to formulate a presentation that will, at least bring a smile to the majority of those that will be glued to their television sets, or listening to the radio or the parliamentarians and other invited guests whose eyes will literally be staring at Minster Chinamasa without a wink.
He may need more bottles of water near him for he will not escape a dry mouth, particularly if the contents of his briefcase are not too reassuring.
The economy has largely been expected to grow by 3,2 percent this year but recently the World Bank said that would not be possible given a poor agricultural season and plummeting global prices for minerals.
But before the World Bank, the African Development Bank had reassured us that we were on course to attain a 3,2 percent GDP growth. Hence Minister Chinamasa is expected to fill us in on the actual state of affairs.
The last few weeks have seen trade and investment missions led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to China and Belarus while some investors have also headed Zimbabwe’s way.
The results of these initiatives or their potential gains will obviously be reflected in Minister Chinama’s statement.
Over the past few weeks, there are those that have lost their jobs as a result of the Supreme Court ruling that employers can fire people on three months’ notice while “over-ambitious” vendors are being taken off the streets to restore order.
Some residents have had their houses demolished due to legal issues that were not attended to on time.
These social challenges will require the minister to say something. Many will obviously be expecting Minister Chinamasa to provide a cushion in the form of new job opportunities or a small and medium business facility through which they can access funds to start or expand their projects.
Various ministries are also expecting the minister to allocate more funds, most of which have remained outstanding since the beginning of the year as Government grappled with poor liquidity.
Hospitals, schools and colleges, among other recipients of Government support, have just been hanging by a thread as they anticipate a richer helping hand from Government.
Others will be hoping for solutions to halt company closures that have left many jobless. Indeed, this is one of the concerns that is uppermost in the private sector.
What will the minister offer to help increase production levels while also encouraging high productivity?
Investors will also be expecting the calls for more Foreign Direct Investment to be buttressed by tangible measures that will see them flocking to this country.
Indeed, the list of expectations is endless and Minister Chinamasa is is expected to quench all these desires, aspirations and wishes.
The truth of the matter at the end of day is that he is only human and can only do so much, but we hope that he will seek Divine intervention as he usually does.
Prophets of God in the mould of Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa have already prophesied that the economy is headed for better days. There is something that they must have seen from their vantage point.
Hence we hope and believe that the days of plenty are now nearer than before. Indeed, God is not a man that he should lie. So as we watch and listen to Minister Chinamasa make his presentation we will bear in mind the bigger picture that all will be well sooner rather than later.
Of course, how soon is almost always determined by how responsible we behave ve in our small and large spheres of influence.
In God I Trust!
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