Tough austerity as Chinamasa unveils $5,1 billion budget
By Leopold Munhende
FINANCE Minister, Patrick Chinamasa has proposed a US$5,1 billion budget for 2018 characterised by tough austerity unimaginable during former president, Robert Mugabe’s era.
He premised his budget on a projected $4.3 billion expected to accrue through taxes, $237 million from non-tax revenue and $100 million from grants.
Noteworthy however is expenditure cuts which will see a reduction in the number of foreign trips by government officials, a slash on the size of travelling delegations, a ban on first class travel by public office bearers – except for the presidium – and forced retirement on those above retirement age of 65 from January 2018.
“The ‘New Economic Order’, therefore, gears towards restoring discipline, fostering a stronger culture of implementation, supported by political will in dealing with correcting the fiscal imbalances and financial sector vulnerabilities, public enterprises and local authorities reform, improving the unconducive investment environment, dealing with corruption in the economy, re-engagement with the international community; stimulating production, and exporting as well as creation of jobs,” said Chinamasa.
The Treasury boss pledged a continued freeze on civil service job recruitments insisting this was aimed at containing a ballooning wage bill.
This shall however exclude recruitment in critical sectors of government service.
Chinamasa also pledged to abolish 3,739 from the initial 7,269 Youth Officers he said shall save Treasury of a $19.3 million wage burden.
Part of the cutthroat austerity introduced shall see senior public officials being restricted to a single vehicle each as over $140 million had already been requested for service of those in their keep which according to the minister is unsustainable.
“All those below the stipulated grades will be restricted to Economy class travel regardless of flight duration, with immediate effect,” he added.
Local Authorities will as of next year be compelled to stick to their service provision and wage bill ratio of 70-30 percent.
In his presentation, Chinamasa also called on parastatals and other public offices to stop using sub-contract security services as their services had ballooned to an annual bill of US$15.3 million.
He also said non-performing parastatals will be privatised.
“State Enterprises that exhibit potential will be reformed, while those which cannot be rehabilitated will be privatised or face outright closure,” he said.
Chinamasa also said government shall pay the 2017 bonuses for civil servants as promised but these would be staggered.
Government shall also see a reduction of its 46 embassies and consulates which had resulted in Treasury incurring arrears of $17,3 million.