FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube was yesterday cornered by legislators who demanded that government immediately buys them vehicles which they are entitled to.
Hurungwe East MP Ngoni Masenda (Zanu PF) asked Ncube to explain why ministers spent lavishly on trips abroad at a time when everyone else was being told to tighten their belts.
The debate became heated, with MPs calling each other names, while some were thrown out of the chamber.
Ncube said the Executive was living within their stipulated allowances.
“There is no lavish travel and lavish living when ministers go abroad, and one of my priorities when I announce the 2019 National Budget will be to cut government spending. That is why I said MPs and ministers’ vehicles should wait for now,” Ncube replied.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) said Ncube should cut on the number of vehicles allocated to ministers instead of punishing legislators.
“In terms of vehicles for MPs, those will be taken care of in the fullness of time, and we are aware that MPs have a lot of work to do,” Ncube replied.
But Mliswa said Zanu PF legislators were given vehicles, yet their opposition counterparts had received nothing.
“Firstly, asset ownership at political level is the business of a political party, but for MPs, I said this will be provided in the fullness of time,” Ncube said.
Another Zanu PF legislator, Molly Mkandla, asked him to explain how he would deal with the $2,3 billion Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe overdraft.
Ncube said government would ensure that it does not borrow above the stipulated 20% target of the previous year’s expenditure.
“We have unremitted taxes to the tune of $2,3 billion from Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) because 80% of companies have not remitted,” he said. “So we have liquidity out there, and 20% of the remittances are from parastatals and local authorities. There is also interest expected from that $2,3 billion, which is $1 billion and it means we have $3,3 billion in unremitted amounts for us to collect.”
Ncube said the 2019 budget would deal with the high wage bill and restructure the civil service while also cutting on vehicles for ministers and non-performing parastatals.
Ncube claimed that Zimbabwe’s economy had grown from $18 billion to $25,7 billion, adding this could be proved by the proliferation of mushika shikas (pirate taxis).
In a ministerial statement later, Ncube said the country was experiencing a growth rate of 6,3%, which was expected to go higher next year.
He said to deal with the $2,5 billion budget deficit going forward, the issuance of Treasury Bills (TBs) would be done through the auction.
“We have received 165 applications for investment at the Zimbabwe Investment Authority which translates to $15,8 billion in investments. We had $1,8 billion investments in 2018 and we anticipate $2 billion in 2019,” Ncube said. “We expect to surpass the economic growth of 4,5% to 6,3% in 2018 because of the strong performance in agriculture, which experienced a 14% growth, mining (24%) and the construction sector showing a 14% growth.”
The Finance minister said the main drivers of inflation were the black market exchange rates which gave rise to speculation.