By Daniel Chigundu
FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa tomorrow (July 20, 2017) comes face to face with the nation in Parliament to explain the performance of his US$4.1 billion budget, amid a worsening liquidity crisis.
Zimbabwe is going through tough times economically as can be evidenced by company closures, massive informalisation of the economy and unending long queues at banks across the country.
So dire is the situation in the country that people have had to sleep at banks in the hope of getting an opportunity to withdraw their money of whatever limit the various banks have set for themselves.
Although the economic problems have been persistent since 2013 when the inclusive government came to an end, it is Chinamasa’s response that will be judged tomorrow as they say economics cannot be rigged.
Unlike other people in government, however, Chinamasa should be applauded for his honest gesture in admitting that there is no money but he will do his best.
Zimbabwe will remember that Chinamasa was not the choice for the post of Finance Minister, it was Emmerson Mnangagwa but he rejected it and seconded a junior Chinamasa who does not have the power to reject decisions made by elders in the party.
Especially when they hold the power to appoint and disappoint, and when one is a sitting President and the other one holds Presidential aspirations and is said to be leading a popular faction in the party, and is also tipped to be the preferred successor.
Back to economics, factional issues are subject for another day or article. What we know so far from studying previous budgets from the time of the inclusive government is that Midterm Budget Review is all about revising expected revenue downwards while expenditure remains unmoved.
As has been the case for some time, the national budget has hovered around US$4 billion and then revised downwards to around US$3.6 billion or US$3.4 billion because revenue always fails to play to the tune.
So we are expecting nothing new on that direction, it’s not a question of if, but of by how much?
The seasoned lawyer will also have the burden of addressing the biting liquidity crisis that is threatening production as most workers are spending time at banks.
As if that is not enough, manufacturing companies are also failing to get foreign currency to purchase raw materials from outside the country, forcing some of them to temporarily scale down or shelve production until things changes in the country.
And while government through the RBZ has tried to push for the ultimate use of plastic money, there are no enough systems to complement the policy or the initiative.
Tuck-shops, vendors and kombis still require payment in cash as they can’t afford the expensive POS machines and some landlords still demand their payments in cash as well.
The Bond Notes that were introduced as an export incentive and to also help ease the cash crisis have surprisingly disappeared and are surprisingly being found across the country’s borders especially in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia even though they only work in the country.
It will be interesting tomorrow to see how Patrick Chinamasa will try to address these challenges at a time when the whole nation is united in suffering from these issues and all their eyes will be on ZTV while their ears will be glued to the various radio stations that normally broadcast the presentation live.
Social media freaks will be on @OpenParlyZW or @Parliamentof Zimbabwe, among many others twitter handles.
During his Midterm budget review statement, Minister Chinamasa complained about unsustainable employment costs which he said are gobbling about 96.4 percent of total revenue and needed to be reduced, but what we know so far is that government is looking at adding more 7 000 teachers and 2000 nurses to the civil service.
The nation will also expect the country’s finance manager to give an update on the debt repayment and the re-engagement process and maybe possibly when we are likely to begin enjoying the fruits of the initiative.
While trying to find solutions to the country’s economic challenges is everyone’s responsibility, tomorrow Patrick Chinamasa will be on his own just like Jesus when he was carrying the heavy that had the sins of everyone, but everyone was laughing and mocking him.
Chinamasa’s job is an undesirable one, having to work with people who are constantly shooting down your efforts or are not playing ball and you have to be the goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker all in one, and everyone expects you to win.
But brave as Chinamasa has always been even in the face of a clearly hopeless situation, he will carry his empty briefcase containing the budget review statement, shoulders high and walk to Parliament to give hope even though it seems not to be there.
Chinamasa’s situation tomorrow is not different from a father coming face to face with his hungry children and trying to preach the gospel of hope, promising food tomorrow when they want it today, such will be the undesirable moment that the finance minister will have at his hands tomorrow in Parliament.
However it must be noted that it’s not Chinamasa’s problem, but a Zimbabwe problem and Chinamasa is just that unfortunate child who is expected to do miracles even though he is not a miracle worker