via EDITORIAL COMMENT: Conservancies must be scrutinised | The Herald November 9, 2013
WITH the economy experiencing mild recession against a backdrop of tightening liquidity and a thinning tax base, the need for effective handling of every revenue stream Government has access to cannot be over-emphasised. Zimbabwe is in desperate need for funding and President Mugabe’s call for transparency in awarding hunting licences came at the right time when all stops need to be pulled to ensure the successful revival of the economy.
Zimbabwe has abundant wildlife resources but unfortunately has not used this to its advantage on a wide-scale as the allocation of hunting licences is, as the President said, shrouded in secrecy even though it is supposed to be awarded in an open tender.
This means over the years, this industry has only benefited a few individuals and not the populace as whole.
Herein lies the problem: from the latest Government accounts produced by the Accountants General’s department for August 31, 2013, Government spending continues to outstrip revenue with the period showing a deficit of US$7,34 million.
Tax revenue was at US$209,69 million, a figure which was US$28,21 million below budget but a better than expected contribution from fees, fines and licences saw total revenue in the period outstrip the budget. Tax revenue in the third quarter was below target due to sluggish economic performance in the run up to elections.
The reality is the tax base is not going to grow in these hard economic times but will shrink as there are massive business closures and retrenchments. The Government stands to lose more than tax revenue from such a development.
There is need to fund Government’s recurrent expenditure which is mainly made up of the civil service wage bill at 93 percent of total expenditure.
With civil servants salaries due for a poverty datum line-linked salary increase, Government should sit down and evaluate its revenue streams. As it stands now the International Monetary Fund and other Bretton Woods institutions are not going to inject any capital in this country until the debt overhang is dealt with while other friendlier countries such as China have set stringent conditions.
We need to move away from talking about the problems this economy is facing and start looking in the positive. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa at a Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe event held during the week in Harare said Zimbabweans need to start creating positive energy around the situation and quit focusing on the negatives.
The truth from the latest Government financial report is clear; more money going forward is going to be made from fees, fines and licences and Government would do well to improve its systems in order to capture the revenue that is coming from the structures.
The hunting sector is one of the biggest streams where Government can draw revenue from. Tenders should be floated and awarded in a transparent manner. But above all, in light with Government’s thrust on indigenisation and empowerment such lucrative businesses should also benefit the communities around them.
Unfortunately, this ministry with huge revenue potential is one of those ministries that do not enjoy the spotlight like others such as Finance, Labour and Indigenisation.
By not being in the spotlight, it presents an opportunity for dodgy activities and individual profiteering opportunities even at the highest level.
Corruption should not be tolerated and every department and ministry should be held accountable for whatever actions they take and immediately be brought in line if there’s a hole.
The President did well by asking about the matter to the former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Francis Nhema and later tasking the new minister Saviour Kasukuwere to ensure that everything which happens in the country’s conservancies is open for public scrutiny, including the revenue that is realised from the wildfire sanctuaries.