Source: Mthuli’s Budget brings renewed hope | The Herald November 15, 2019
Lincoln Towindo Senior Reporter
When Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube disembarked from his white Toyota Land Cruiser SUV around noon yesterday, a pack of journalists jostled for a peek of the man in whose black briefcase, the country’s fiscal plan for the next 12 months was locked.
Dressed resplendently in a navy blue suit, a matching sky blue shirt and a maroon tie, Prof Ncube beamed with confidence as he walked towards the front entrance of Parliament Building, briefcase in hand.
With media hacks in tow, the Treasury head stood there smiling for the cameras for the traditional pre-Budget photo-op in front of the Parliament Building plaque.
“What should we expect from the Budget, Minister,” came a question.
“A very good Budget, a very people-centred Budget,” was the reply from the Professor.
Another salvo of questions from more journalists, was rebuffed by yet another grin and a mumble, as he turned and walked into the august House.
He looked like a man in no mood for small talk: he knew the real business of the day awaited him in the National Assembly.
Here was a man carrying hopes of a nation ravaged by austerity over the last year, with yet another financial plan. This time, he was armed with a plan to provide healing, growth and development.
Across the street, inside Africa Unity Square, a small group of youths clad in Zanu-PF regalia were in full song and dance in show of support to their Government.
Rain-heavy clouds that enveloped central Harare skies had threatened to dampen their carnival atmosphere, with a light drizzle earlier on, but they seemed undeterred and continued regardless.
Earlier in the day, small groups of youths scattered across the square going about their business, engaging in animated chatter.
Most seemed unaware that a grand event, with far-reaching implications on their future was about to take place a few hours later just a stone’s throw away.
Chris Mhunga of Mufakose, who was part of a group of youths revising for college examinations, was among the few who knew about the National Budget.
He said his hopes of securing a job after completing his studies were dependent on Government turning around the economy.
“Things are really difficult,” he said. “For young people such as myself and my friend here, we do not know what the future holds for us.
“Will we be able to find employment after completing our studies? This means Government needs to act fast or else we are doomed.
“The Minister of Finance needs to put in place policies that stimulate employment creation so that we can be able to find work after we are done with school.”
His colleagues looked on in apparent bewilderment, but clearly in agreement with his thinking. Chris and his colleagues were united in their expectation of better economic fortunes for the country.
There was, however, little enthusiasm about the economic outlook among most people who spoke to The Herald.
The recurring theme from most interviews centred on skyrocketing prices of goods and services. The authorities needed to intervene immediately.
VIPs began arriving around lunch time ahead of the beginning of official proceedings.
It was, however, the arrival of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring Dr Joram Gumbo that elicited much excitement from the media scrum.
Dr Gumbo has been out of the public eye since his questioning by officers from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and abortive court appearance thereafter.
He seemed unperturbed by the attention as he made his way into Parliament.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs (Mashonaland West) Mary Mliswa-Chikoka also stole the show.
Arriving in an elegant black floral black dress and matching black-block heels, the elegant minister was prepared for the humid weather as she refreshed herself with a hand-held folding fan.
Deputy Industry Minister Raj Modi risked offending “fashion police” with his neck tie glaringly out of position as he appeared to have left his office before going in front of the mirror.
Later on as the Presidential motorcade made its way to the entrance, the crowd inside Africa Unity Square released an ear-splitting roar of approval.
And when President Mnangagwa entered Parliament Building, it was time for the big business.
National Business Council of Zimbabwe (NBCZ) president Mr Langton Mabhanga said: “The minister made an attempt to spread resources, however thinly. The focus towards promoting youth employment through a $500 million joint venture capital facility could be a trigger for youth entrepreneurship development in Zimbabwe.
“The minister did well to galvanise President Mnangagwa’s trajectory of up-scaling the country’s public transport system and infrastructure. Already these stick out as the early potential areas of emerging legacy of the Second Republic.”
But Mr Mabhanga said the Budget appears to be “coy on strategies” of tackling inflation.
He added that the production and productivity thrust could have been more emphatic after a year of excruciating austerity measures.
“Owing to inflation, the minister could have better recognised the fact that most farmers, especially the A1, will find it difficult to afford planting seeds and fertilisers.
“Given that a fairly good rainy season is beckoning, a sustainable support cropping package could have been put together. We urge the minister to reconsider the lifting of subsidies on maize and wheat given that even the working class and informal sector have been degraded to vulnerable category owing to the vagaries of inflation,” he said.