Nqobile Bhebhe in Nkayi
GOVERNMENT has been urged to increase funding in the 2023 budget to ensure speedy completion of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road and Ziminya Dam projects, which would enhance economic activity and create more job opportunities in the district.
This could be achieved if Treasury pegs its budget in US-dollar terms as a measure to guard against the inflationary pressures that eroded this year’s local currency-indexed budget, which forced the Government to table a supplementary budget.
This came out during a highly subscribed first 2023 national budget consultation process held at Nkayi Business Centre yesterday.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development kicked-started the critical consultation process, which will assist Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, to draft his fiscal policy statement for the coming year.
During the meeting several stakeholders stressed the need to peg the budget in US dollars, increase budget allocation for the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road construction, in particular and other development projects with transformative impact on people’s livelihoods.
Representing Nkayi business community, Mr Arthur Moyo said as the business sector they were losing more opportunities due to the slow pace in rehabilitating the 158km Bulawayo-Nkayi Road. While the project was initiated in the early 1990s, about 50km of the road has so far been upgraded with funding constraints stalling progress. The Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has, however, pledged commitment to repair the dilapidated road and ease the burden on motorists and the travelling public.
“With a proper budget, the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road can take about six months to be complete,” said Mr Moyo.
“So, as Nkayi business community, we appeal for a meaningful budget and we also want the road rehabilitation to even start from Nkayi centre so that we can monitor its progress.”
Mrs Nobuhle Mhlanga said ensuring smooth road connection between Nkayi centre was critical in increasing business traffic and attracting tourists.
“As a district, we are losing a lot of potential revenue due to unsuitable road infrastructure,” she said.
“If we are adequately connected to the Kwekwe Road, that would attract more tourist traffic from Harare going to Victoria Falls. We look forward to the speedy completion of this road and that would happen when sustainable funds are allocated in the budget.”
The participants also called for an increase in the resources under the Constituency Development Fund and Devolution. They said while they appreciated Government’s measures to contain inflationary pressures and stabilise the economy, having a US dollar budget would further buttress macro-economic stability.
“We appreciate Government economic policies to contain inflation and revive the economy but we feel there is need to have the 2023 national budget pegged in US dollars at interbank rate,” said a community member who identified herself as Monica.
“I say this because when the budget allocations are made to various ministries, the bulk of it will have been affected by inflation when it reaches the provinces and wards.
“Why not have the bulk of the budget in US dollars and a small portion in local currency?” she suggested.
Speaking to Business Chronicle after the consultations, team leader from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance, who is Umzingwane legislator, Brigadier General (Rtd) Levy Mayihlome said the committee was overwhelmed by the turnout.
“We did not expect such a high turnout but we were overwhelmed by the number of people who came.
“People spoke with great passion especially on the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, Ziminya Dam and more funds being allocated to the health sector,” he said.
“It shows that they are committed to the development of the area. They also spoke about the release of funds vis a vis the RTGS budget. They want the budget to be in US dollars. Also, they spoke about the need for tangible projects in the district,” he said.
The public hearings, which seek to strengthen Parliament and citizens’ role in the formulation of the national budget, are conducted every year in fulfilment of section 28 (5) of the Public Finance Management Act.
The Act states, “the minister may, through the appropriate portfolio committee of Parliament, seek the views of Parliament in the preparation and formulation of the annual budget, for which purpose the appropriate portfolio committee shall conduct public hearings to elicit the opinions of as many stakeholders in the national budget as possible”.
The provision is also in line with section 13 of the Constitution, which compels the State to involve the people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them
According to a public notice released by Parliament, today the process shifts to Omadu Hotel in Maphisa and would move to Filabusi (Thursday) and round off on Friday at Jahunda Primary school in Gwanda. In Bulawayo, the consultations will be held on Wednesday between 10.30AM and 12.30PM at Selbourne Hotel and Stanley Hall in Makokoba in the afternoon.
In July, Prof Ncube tabled a $929 billion supplementary budget citing the need to steer development progress amid increasing costs occasioned by unforeseen global shock-induced inflationary pressures, which have eroded the original 2022 budget framework.
While the country’s economy remains on steady growth, Treasury has revised downwards projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates from the initial 5,5 percent to 4,6 percent, reflecting the impact of the external environment.
Under President Mnangagwa’s administration, the country has come up with Vision 2030 through which the Government desires to transform the citizens’ living standards by ensuring that they have decent jobs by 2030.
Through Vision 2030, the Government also wants to achieve an upper middle-income economy with per capita income approaching US$3 500.
Article Source: The Chronicle