The 2021 National Budget Strategy Paper should promote a just, equitable and prosperous Zimbabwe by addressing the plight of women and youths who have borne the brunt of national pandemics such as Covid 19 and other diseases.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development executive director, Janet Zhou said BSP, that was launched last week by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, should provide a framework for robust public service delivery, promote constitutional rights and should not perpetuate rent-seeking behaviour through the centralisation of wealth and economic power in the hands of an elite.
Zhou made the remarks this week during a Zimcodd facilitated breakfast meeting in Harare aimed at reviewing the BSP that was attended by Parliament’s portfolio committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development and members of the civic society.
The 2021 Budget Strategy Paper marks the transition from the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, which is coming to an end this December, paving way for the longer-term National Development Strategy from 2021-2025.
Among the economic fundamentals she said were missed include growth targets, inflation targets, revenue coupled with a slump in industry capacity utilization, Foreign Direct Investment, worsening employment, prevalence of extreme poverty among other issues.
She noted that the BSP might not work given that it was based on private sector led growth policy assumptions which inadvertently shrink the state and its capacity through cutbacks and perpetuate ingrained inequalities between genders, generations, classes and regions by undermining wealth redistribution and public investments to support the poor and vulnerable.
“It seeks to justify austerity measures and the mass denial of constitutional rights in the name of reducing budget deficits, deregulate key sectors of the economy and undermine environmental protections to pave way for resource and capital extraction, undermine legislative scrutiny and judicial challenges to economic and resource extraction deals, undermine the constitutional devolution of political and economic power away from the center to local authorities and Provincial Councils,” said Zhou.
“It also seeks to facilitate the privatisation of public goods and services on behalf of capital through PPPs, Build Operate and Transfer Schemes, perpetuate food production, resource extraction, and wealth creation processes based on the exploitation of people and the environment.”
She said there was need to realize that in this time of lockdown and heightened tensions women and young girls were more vulnerable to domestic violence, access to finance, economic power, wealth creation opportunities, land and other productive resources to fully participate or benefit from the expected investments in agriculture, manufacturing and mining.
She said women and were the majority of workers in smallholder agriculture and informal trade even though they in most cases did not own land and means of production.
“We also realize that feminisation of poverty is a major drawback to national development, we ought to know that the Covid-19 pandemic will likely worsen inequalities experienced daily by women and young girls in terms of access to education, legal justice, food, water, energy among other issues,” she said.
“We need solutions and resource allocations to address major discernible crises affecting young people in Zimbabwe such as: mass unemployment and poor capacity absorption in the economy, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights crisis affecting women and young girls from resource poor areas.”
Budget and Finance portfolio committee chairperson, Felix Mhona said Members of Parliament should have a greater role in national budget processes that includes influencing disbursement priority areas for it to have meaningful impact on people.
He said while legislators had a role in budget formulation and approval, there was need to strengthen their oversight role to ensure they played a role in its distribution given the importance of issues that it covers that include health and social protection.
“The Budget is the only tool that used by the Government to meet the developmental issues and socio-economic needs of the people and on behalf of the people. In other words, from the lens of a human right perspective, the national budget is a fiscal commitment to the right to health, education and social protection among other human rights that must be met by the State,” said Mhona.
“In other jurisdictions Parliament play a critical role on the budget contrary to our scenario where we merely approve the budget but has no role in the distribution.”
Labour expert, Godfrey Kanyenze said there was a need to develop a checklist of achievements of TSP before a transition to BSP and establish where the targets were missed.