POST BUDGET SEMINAR: What Jacob Mudenda said

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HON. ADV. J. F. MUDENDA AT THE POST-BUDGET SEMINAR 8 JANUARY 2018

The President of the Senate, Hon E.G. Madzongwe;

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon M. M. Chinomona;

The Deputy President of the Senate, Hon C.C.C. Chimutengwende;

Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Dr T. Khupe;

The President of the National Council of Chiefs, Hon. Senator Chief F.Z. Charumbira;

Honourable Chief Whips;

Honourable Committee Chairpersons here present;

Honourable Members of Parliament here present;

The Acting Clerk of Parliament, Ms. H. B. Dingani and Staff of Parliament here present;

Our distinguished facilitators;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

This Post-Budget seminar is momentous as it marks the epilogue to our Parliament’s Budget cycle in the 8th Parliament. Some Members of Parliament here present may take a nonchalant attitude on the premise that there is no need to participate enthusiastically on a Budget whose life span may elude them since they do not know whether they will make it back to Parliament in six months’ time. Let me remind them that we are here in Parliament not only as individual Members of Parliament but more importantly we are here as the body politic of Parliament, the revered people’s institution. Our participation, therefore, in the 2018 Post-Budget seminar is a historical institutional engagement for posterity. We are closing down the curtain of the 8th Parliament’s budget cycle in order to open the gate to the vista of the 2019 Budget in the 9 th Parliament. Let us, therefore, view our participation in the 2018 Post-Budget Seminar as key players in the Parliamentary chain which will enable us to leap forward into the future of the 9th Parliament, whether we come back or not. Our comfort lies in the belief that our contribution in the 8th Parliament is part of the cornerstone in the foundation of those Parliaments that will come after the 8th Parliament whose bedrock has been the previous Parliaments. Thus, be guided by stubborn optimism that all will be well for you next year. If not, that is not the end of the world.

Hon. Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This seminar seeks to incisively interrogate the 2018 Budget statement which was underpinned by the inspirational theme: Towards a New Economic Order. That new economic order is predicated on the restoration of market confidence, instilling and upholding discipline in managing our public finances as well as the economy generally and ensuring policy consistency, clarity, credibility and predictability. As we interrogate the 2018 Budget Statement, the question arises as to what role has Parliament to play to ensure that the predicated tenets of the new economic order are consummated? Firstly, as Parliament, we have to be optically analytic of the Statement vis-à-vis the actual budgetary allocations. In this context, it is my belief that our facilitators will assist Parliament to make comparative analysis of the performance of the 2017 Budget against the 2018 Budget proposals. On that score, this seminar should find out to what an extent the 2017 Budget allocations performed against the actual disbursements so that the 2018 Budget allocations remain faithfully in tandem with the actual disbursements. To that an extent, we should be able to measure honestly the real growth of our economy and its impact on the people’s livelihoods. Put differently, the Budget must be seen to translate into real tangible outputs and outcomes as our people do not survive on rhetoric but on bread and butter on the table. To quote the wise counsel from the Great American Statesman, President John F. Kennedy, “ …we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Equally, the Irish novelist, playwright and poet, Oliver Goldsmith, echoed similar sentiments when he observed that “ You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips”. Thus, Parliament, as the supreme representative body of the land, must lead by example through passing a pro-poor people centred budget. If it does that, it will have ridden on the crest of the wave of optimism generated by the ascendancy to power of His Excellency, the President, Cde. E. D. Mnangagwa whose inauguration speech and address on the State of the Nation coloured a Zimbabwe of imminent prosperity in the near future.

Secondly, it is axiomatic that Parliament plays a key role in ensuring that the 2018 Budget responds to new economic order that is anchored on fostering public business confidence, prudential management of our public finances and the economy in general as well as ensuring policy consistency, clarity, credibility and predictability. That can be achieved by Parliament through concerted and robust oversight on the Executive without fear or favour. In this regard, you as Members of Parliament will have to make the Executive totally accountable in the implementation of the 2018 Budget. Do not be intimidated by the Executive in your Parliamentary Committee assignments as you carry out your oversight responsibilities. Have the courage and fortitude to carry out your constitutional mandate. Remember to put into practice what the Constitution enjoins the Executive peremptorily in Section 107 (2) in that:

“Every Vice-President, Minister and Deputy Minister must attend Parliament and parliamentary committees in order to answer questions concerning matters for which he or she is collectively or individually responsible.”

Not only that, even Section 140(3) of the Constitution leverages Parliament to invite His Excellency, the President, who “ may attend Parliament to answer questions on any issue as may be provided in Standing Orders.” That is how elastic your oversight responsibilities are. Furthermore, your oversight role should accent the expeditious executive implementation of the 2018 Budget in order to accelerate the attainment of the new economic order. Since the presentation of the 2018 Budget, I have read and heard several comments from the business sector, civil society and some individuals. They all extol the 2018 Budget as reformative, prudent, inclusive, well balanced, transformative and refreshingly novel in its thrust. Thus, in undertaking its oversight role in the implementation of the 2018 Budget, Parliament must not disabuse of this public confidence. Parliament should ensconce itself on the crest of this public exuberance of confidence. Accordingly, on our part as Parliament, we have to intensify the realisation of participatory and representative democracy through well-coordinated public hearings on the National Budget. We must take the views of our stakeholders seriously as these are meant to nurture and expand our democratic space and processes as we implement the 2018 Budget. In this regard, therefore, I am delighted to state that, notwithstanding resource constraints, Parliament has religiously conducted public hearings pursuant to the need to give effect to section 141 of the Constitution which provides that:

“Parliament must:-

a) Facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the process of its committees;

b) Ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament unless such consultation is inappropriate or impracticable…”

Thirdly, in responding to the new economic order, especially on ensuring that public policy is well distilled and predictable, Parliament’s Question Time must bolster public policy consistency, clarity and credibility. Your Motions must be clinically presented in order to enhance consistent public policy which will create business confidence locally and internationally. In the same view, and as representatives of the electorate, you must sing from the same hymn of the public policy locally and when you travel abroad on official delegations. Equally, no esteemed public policy can stand the test of time if it is not grounded on a sound legal framework that is supportive of the envisaged new economic order. It is, therefore, incumbent upon Parliament to exercise its legislative role which should buttress public policy in the drive towards the new economic order. All these efforts demand resilient political will. There is no political will where Members of Parliament do a bunk and create lack of quorum in the House while the Order Paper has a plethora of debate items on it. This is an antithesis of the envisaged new economic order.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to applaud the Minister of Finance and Economic Development for the clear overtures to the international community regarding re-engagement. This has the potential to attract foreign investors and fresh capital to complement domestic resources. However, foreign assistance must but just be complementary to domestically mobilised resources due to its volatility and concomitant conditionalities. We must seek re-engagement fully aware of the primacy of the reliance on domestic resource mobilisation. In this regard, Government should urgently consider the establishment of virtual banking in tandem with virtual revenue collection from all sectors of the economy through a V-Code system. It is estimated that this system, once installed for all our daily economic transactions, Treasury can realise between $7 to $10 Billion dollars annually in domestic financing. That will kill our budget deficit. There won’t be any need to borrow externally. Our Sovereign Wealth Fund will have an immediate jump start. Why miss such an opportunity when what is only required is an amendment to the RBZ Banking Act or the promulgation of a Statutory Instrument allowing for the issuance of a V-Code banking licence.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The search for the new economic order brings me to the question of the re-appointment of the Auditor General, a critical figure in the prudential management of public finances. As you may recall, Parliament applauded the work of the Auditor General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, by unanimously declining the proposed appointment of Mr Mike Ndudzo as Auditor General. We are elated that the Executive took heed of Parliament’s objection and has now seen it fit to re-appoint Mrs Mildred Chiri for a further term of office as Auditor General. The direct impact of this appointment will result in enhanced fiscal probity. This must be bolstered by Parliamentary oversight on outstanding issues previously raised by the Auditor General. The audit findings behove Parliament to follow up on the financial improprieties that the Auditor General unfathomed in the public sector by coming up with pithy and time-bound Committee recommendations to the Executive, which must be implemented. Relatedly, I have, therefore, no doubt that the re-appointment of the Auditor General will boost investor confidence locally and internationally. A clean government attracts business and capital. To that extent, Parliament must ensure total compliance with the financial reporting obligations by line Ministries as outlined in the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19] and the Audit Office Act [Chapter 22:18]. This will undoubtedly result in improved accountability, transparency and fiscal discipline which was the clarion call of the His Excellency, the President, Cde. E. D. Mnangagwa, in his compelling Inauguration Speech and the State of the Nation Address.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Parliament to succeed in its constitutional mandate in the above responsibilities as it works together with the Auditor General, its budget must be comprehensively adequate. The paltry $57.2 million allocated to it for the 2018 financial year is a serious negation of our thrust to enhance “transparency, accountability and responsiveness” as envisaged in the founding values of the Constitution. Parliament had budgeted for $100 million so that it reaches out in its oversight role to all the 22 Government Ministries, all Commissions, the 92 Local Authorities and 93 Parastatals and State Owned Enterprises. With that meagre $57.2 million, it will not be possible for Parliament to execute its constitutionally enshrined responsibilities. This has severe implications on the tripartite principles of constitutional democracy, legality and rule of law. And yet Section 299 of the Constitution enjoins Parliament unequivocally by stating that:-

“(1) Parliament must monitor and oversee expenditure by the State and all Commissions and institutions and agencies of government at every level, including statutory bodies, government-controlled entities, provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities, in order to ensure that—

(a) all revenue is accounted for;

(b) all expenditure has been properly incurred; and

(c) any limits and conditions on appropriations have been

observed”.

Giving effect to the above peremptory provisions is not a desk exercise. It is a mammoth task that requires adequate funding which must be timeously released to Parliament. After all, section 325(1)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe highlights that “The Government must ensure that adequate funds are provided to Parliament, to enable it and its committees to meet whenever necessary”

Further to the above, the primacy of the role of Parliament is articulated in section 119 of the Constitution which states that:

 (1) Parliament must protect this Constitution and promote democratic governance in Zimbabwe.

(2) Parliament has power to ensure that the provisions of this Constitution are upheld and that the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level act constitutionally and in the national interest.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), all institutions and agencies of the State and government at every level are accountable to Parliament.”

It is, therefore, vital to highlight that failure to comprehensively fund Parliament amounts to a violation of the cardinal principle of the separation of powers as enunciated in section 3(2)(e) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. In this regard, therefore, the umbilical cord on the effectiveness of Parliament as a sovereign constitutional body is inherently tied to its financial independence. Financial independence can only be realised when adequate resources are provided to Parliament so that it can consummate its oversight, representation and legislative roles. Thus, this demands a review of the budget allocated to Parliament by Treasury as a matter of cause and urgency.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Apart from reviewing the Budget allocation for Parliament, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development must consider revising upwards the budget for the Ministry of Health and Child Care. This Ministry should have the highest allocation at most or at least comply with the 15% benchmark set by the Abuja Declaration. This proposal is informed by the current deplorable state of our Public Health Delivery System. The health facilities are clearly not in sync with Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which espouses the fundamental human right to health care, and provides that:-

“ (1) Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services.

(2) Every person living with a chronic illness has the right to have access to basic healthcare services for the illness.

(3) No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health-care institution.

(4) The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights set out in this section.”

 

In spite of the above constitutional obligations, the 2018 Budget allocation to the Ministry of Health and Child Care is 7.7% of the total Budget slightly up from 6.9% in the 2017 Budget as compared with 8.27% in the 2016 Budget. This situation is unacceptable and unattainable in our challenging health delivery service.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Parliament can play a pivotal role in putting our economy back on track. In this regard, therefore, the Executive must bring to Parliament Bills that accelerate the Ease of Doing Business without any further delay otherwise the Budget remains a talk shop. Critical among these is the legislation relating to the establishment of the One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre which has eluded us since 2010 when there was pomp and ceremony to usher in what turned out to be a hoax. In 2015, former President Mugabe gave the nation the 31st December 2015 as the deadline for the establishment of such a One- Stop-Shop Centre. The target was not met. It now behoves the Executive to resuscitate the issue with the urgency it deserves. We believe that the establishment of such an Investment Centre will reduce the lag time required to invest in Zimbabwe. We want this to be reduced to at least 3 days or less. Rwanda which came out of 1994 human catastrophic genocide has done it! Why can we not do better under the vibrant new dispensation?

 

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I wish to emphasise that we must actuate measures which enhance socio-economic development. Let me single out small-scale miners, particularly in the gold sub-sector. These small-scale miners have positively responded to the facilities and incentives extended by Government. By 31st October 2017, artisanal miners had delivered in excess of 10.3 tonnes of gold compared to 9.5 tonnes from primary producers. As such, Zimbabwe expects to break the 18-year record of the highest ever gold output of 27, 1 tonnes, buoyed by these increased deliveries from artisanal miners. Parliament must, therefore, pursue an agenda that will sustain increased gold deliveries to Fidelity. For example, if Parliament advocated for $100 million for the purchase of 200 complete milling plants for at least 2 000 small-scale miners, the artisanal miners can potentially produce 100 tons of gold annually whose value can be $4.2 billion. Combine this level of production with that of primary producers, Zimbabwe can realise at least 150 tonnes of gold yearly. It is possible to establish our gold bank and introduce our own national currency. Relatedly, Parliament should ensure that the Mines and Minerals Bill as well as the Exploration Bill are passed into law before 31 st March 2018 in order to boost the mining sector, one of the low hanging economic fruits for the envisaged new economic order. Exploration will enable Government to quantify more accurately its mineral resources and enable it to securitize some of them for domestic resource mobilisation. To that an extent, the Committee on Mines and Energy must pursue the revamping of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) through the Ministry of Mines so that an energetic and innovative Board is in place soon. Currently, ZMDC sits on 14 or so inoperative mining concessions. This is unacceptable.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen ,

It is instructive to note that national development is about democratisation of the development process. I raise this pertinent point precisely because Chapter 14 of the Constitution on devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities is not being complied with. In this regard, therefore, Parliament must take a leading role in ensuring that the devolution of power and development processes must be seen to be followed as prescribed in the Constitution. If there is need to amend this Chapter in order to achieve a lean provincial administration, such must be done urgently so that the government can act within the constraints of the national purse. The Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and that of Local Government must attend to this issue in liaison with the Ministry of Justice as well as other relevant stakeholders.

 

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me acknowledge the presence of our esteemed experts who have made this seminar part of their busy schedules. I acknowledge their commitment to our Parliamentary cause. I believe that their facilitation will stimulate constructive debate on the Budget. To complement their presentations, let us all be positively engaged in the discussions and proffer viable solutions in the Budget analysis. As rightly observed by the late 35th President of United States of America, John F. Kennedy in 1961, “ Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country”. As Members of Parliament, ask yourselves what you can do for your country through the prudential implementation of the 2018 Budget. We have a responsibility to lift our country to its greater development heights through our abiding faith in the value and dignity of hard work. In this trajectory, we should not be found wanting.

It is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this Post-Budget Seminar officially open as I wish you fruitful deliberations.

 

I THANK YOU.

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