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‘Budget overruns a sign of indiscipline’


Former Finance minister Tendai Biti says there are no prospects of better economic fortunes for Zimbabwe without any political change.

Biti, who was treasury chief when the country experienced temporary relief from the economic crisis between 2009 and 2013 during the inclusive government era, was reacting to revelations that government overspent by over $1 billion for the year ended December 31.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s foreign trips, where he used a private jet hired from Dubai, exceeded the budgeted figure during the period under review.

The government registered a surplus of $437 million against a target of $1,58 billion due to higher than budgeted increases in employment costs, procurement and service costs and a high foreign travel bill, which overshot its allocation by over 200%, the 2019 consolidated financial statements released last week showed.

Biti, whose mantra was “we eat what we kill” during his term, said the figures showed that the government cannot live within its means.

“It is clear that the government cannot live within its earnings and it’s not like they do not know,” he said.

“They know that their spending is crippling the economy, but Zanu PF will always be Zanu PF. 

“They are corrupt and that is who they are. (Finance minister) Mthuli (Ncube) has proved to be the worst minister ever but even if someone else comes in, it will be the same for as long as Zanu PF is still there.

“What the country needs is political change.

“Reforms will not work.

“The solution is political and not economic.”

John Robertson, a renowned economist, said government budget overruns showed lack of discipline and was one of the reasons Zimbabwe’s economy was in the doldrums.

“Accountability and integrity are the missing essentials,” Robertson said.

“I think most people in government know what they should do, but most of them choose to do whatever they can get away with for as long as their authority remains unchallenged.

“They have almost bled the country to death and their behaviour has turned Zimbabwe into one of the poorest countries on earth.

“They have to be held to account. Zimbabweans must take responsibility for setting the standards of behaviour in the future. “Nobody outside the country will do that for us.”

The Finance ministry last week said the surplus of $437 million instead of the projected budget deficit of 4% of the gross domestic product of $4 billion “underlines the significant success of the fiscal consolidation process, which treasury embarked on in 2019”.

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