LEGISLATORS took Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube to task in Parliament Wednesday, challenging him over the government’s “failed” NDS-1 economic blue-print and the administration’s apparent lack of ideas on how to relieve public suffering as basic commodity prices hit the roof.Leading the charge was opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) MP for Mbizo in Kwekwe, Settlement Chikwinya.
“…in view of the dwindling levels of the quality of life where poverty is on the increase, what is the new strategy under which the Minister may be able to announce to Parliament which can give confidence to the citizens that the Government is able to provide solutions with regards to the current economic challenges which we are facing?
“In the rural areas where we come from, civil servants are earning money that can only afford a dozen loaves of bread. There are no medicines in the hospitals, people are suffering. What is the Government doing to ensure that they alleviate the suffering that people are going through?”
Professor Ncube launched into a lecture outlining what he described as the 14 pillars of the government’s National Development Strategy-1 document, and then reeled off achievements in infrastructure development such as roads and dams using local resources.
“I must hasten to say that we have used Government resources to do this, which really means taxes from our citizens; we have not been having any loans from outside expect for loans here and there but it is largely tax payers’ money,” said the Minister.
“Look at Muchekeranwa Dam, Marowa/Nyathi Dam, Vungu Dam in Midlands have started. Zimunya Dam in Nkayi has started, Tuli Manyange Dam in Matabeleland South has also started. Silver Stream is also being sorted out and Kunzvi Dam is also being looked into.
“Let us look at Mbudzi Interchange; it is going to be a world class piece of infrastructure and all of that is from the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1, which is the first pillar – Infrastructure.”
But Chikwinya was not impressed, telling Prof Ncube that he was answering a question that had not been asked.
“I think the Minister did not understand my question,” he said.
“I did not ask about NDS 1, I referred to it and I pointed out all the shortcomings such as civil servants meagre salaries. There are no medicines in hospitals and there are a lot of problems.
“The Hon. Minister is talking about pillars but the pillars he is talking about do not refer or translate to people’s earnings, which issue is supposed to be addressed. So, I am saying NDS 1 has failed, therefore, what are we going to do?”
Other legislators such as Charlton Hwnde, Tendai Biti and Temba Mliswa also interjected and weighed in challenging the Minister on government’s failure to address civil servants salaries which have been eroded by resurgent inflation as well as demanding full dollarisation of the economy.
Said independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa; “How can the Minister guarantee that with the prices going up and inflation, the money that the civil servants and all of us are being paid here will be able to have value when there is no increase in salaries?
“I am saying things are going up but workers are not paid enough according to the percentage of the prices that are going up. How can people survive with that little when things are going up?
“We should feel for our people and we should not walk out of this House as if all things are rosy.”
Another opposition MP added; “I would like to find out from the Hon. Minister. We have seen so many tricks that you have tried to employ to resuscitate the economy but it is not working. Why can you not dollarize once and for all?
“You are saying that you have given people leeway to go outside the country and get goods – how are they going to get those goods when they are paid in RTGs?”
Prof Ncube however, insisted that there would be no return to full dollarisation
“That is a very bad idea to only accept USD in our country,” he said.
“Let me further explain what will happen under US dollarization which is what happened during the Unity Government. What happened is that there was deflation and deflation means that we had negative growth and that was totally undesirable.
“We also had an increase in bad debts and that is why we ended up creating ZAMCO to clean up the problem that was created by the USD. The competitiveness of our industry was basically shut down.
“We just became a nation of importers and we de-industrialised and that destroyed our industry which has only been resuscitated by the introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar during the Second Republic.”
He continued; “Madam Speaker Ma’am, do you not think that it was ironic that during the USD regime, we had no foreign currency. We had no reserves. We could not even pay our foreign debts.
“We only began paying our foreign debts after introducing the Zimbabwe dollar. It has given us the leeway to do what we do. What we did during the Unity Government, we could not fix our roads.
“We borrowed money from South Africa to do the Plumtree-Harare-Mutare Road. This time around, we are not borrowing, we are using our own resources and that capability has been afforded by the introduction of our own domestic currency.”