BILL WATCH 62/2013
[20th December 2013]
Parliament has Adjourned following Yesterday’s Budget Presentation
Both Houses will Resume on Tuesday 21st January 2014
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning presented the 2014 National Budget Statement in the National Assembly yesterday, Thursday 19th December. At the conclusion of his speech the Minister tabled the Estimates of Expenditure for the fiscal year 2014 [the 2014 “Blue Book”]. Also made available to MPs after the sitting was the Ministry’s Departmental Draft of the Finance Bill. [Soft copies of these three documents are available – see below.]
Post-Budget Proceedings: 13th January to 31st January
The Leader of Government Business, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa, then outlined the proposed arrangements for post-Budget proceedings, having first reminded members that section 141 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that Parliament must:
· facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the processes of its committees
· ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament …
· conduct its business in a transparent manner and hold its sittings and those of its committees in public.
Portfolio committee meetings from 13th January
All committees of Parliament will resume on business on Monday 13th January to enable them to consult on the 2014 National Budget Statement. Consultation will run from 13th to 16th January. Each committee will hold two meetings. The first meeting in each case will be open to the public, but the second will be a closed meeting for deliberations and approval of a report to be presented to the parent House when debate resumes the following week.
Note: Veritas will circulate the timetable of these committee meetings in a separate bulletin in its Parliamentary Committees series, as soon as it becomes available early in the New Year. Meanwhile, stakeholders and other interested parties have an opportunity to study the Budget Statement and the Estimates of Expenditure and prepare representations for submission to the Parliamentary committees, and their representatives in both the National Assembly and Senate.
Sittings of Senate and National Assembly from 21st January
Both Houses will resume business on Tuesday 21st January 2014. The aim is to complete work on the Budget by Thursday 31st January 2013.
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning website The Budget Statement can now be downloaded from the Ministry’s website http://www.zimtreasury.gov.zw/
Available by email from Veritas Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request any or all of the following:
· Budget Statement
· Blue Book
· Finance Bill departmental draft.
Bill for New Income Tax Act Delayed for Reconsideration by Parliament
Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s Bill for a new Income Tax Act was passed by Parliament in June at a time when most ZANU-PF MPs chose to absent themselves from Parliament in the run-up to the harmonised elections proclaimed by the President on 13th June. The Bill was sent to the President for his assent early in November, meaning that he had to decide whether to assent to it or return it to Parliament for reconsideration by the end of November. Then there was silence.
President has withheld assent to the Bill
Yesterday, in the following announcement made in the National Assembly before Minister Chinamasa started his Budget presentation, the Speaker explained what had happened:
“His Excellency the President informed Parliament on the 04th of December 2013 that he did not assent to the Income Tax Bill owing to reservations on the following issues:
a) Taxation of insurance and pensions;
b) Shift from source basis to residence basis of taxation;
c) Impact of limiting allowable expenditure for business;
d) Repeal of the capital gains tax and taxation of capital amounts;
e) Softening of the penalty regime;
f) Synchronising the new Act with the Finance Act;
g) Natural Resources Taxation particularly as this relates to the mining sector; and
h) Various administrative processes and procedures that require review and development to support the implementation of the new Act.”
National Assembly to reconsider Bill
When the President refers a Bill back to Parliament in this way, section 131(7) requires the Speaker to convene, without delay, a sitting of the National Assembly, which must either:
· reconsider the Bill and fully accommodate the President’s reservations; or
· pass the Bill, with or without amendments by a two-thirds majority of its total membership.
The Bill has accordingly been “recommitted” to a committee of the whole House for reconsideration, and features as item 2 on the National Assembly Order Paper for Tuesday 21st January.
Note: Section 131(7) goes on to provide for a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly to override a Presidential veto by passing a returned Bill without accommodating all or even any of the President’s reservations – as long as it does so by a two-thirds majority of its total membership. No such confrontation is anticipated in the present case. Not only was the original Bill passed by the previous Parliament in the voluntary absence of ZANU-PF MPs; there is also the reality that the President’s party has a comfortable majority in the National Assembly and is hardly likely to countenance disagreement with Presidential reservations which have presumably already received party endorsement.
In the Senate Yesterday
The Senate also met briefly yesterday, 19th December. After prayers and an announcement by the President of the Senate about the presentation of the Budget, it adjourned until Tuesday 21st January. Senators, however, remained in their seats to follow the Budget proceedings in the National Assembly.
Summary of Budget Statement and Blue Book
This will follow in a separate bulletin as soon as possible.
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