THE Government is considering reviewing this year’s National Budget allocations as spending dynamics have changed following shifts in resource use by various ministries as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Budget was presented by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube in November last year, with supplementary budget announcement tentatively set for August.
However, this year, spending in most ministries has been disturbed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) prompting most ministries to allocate the bulk of their resources to fight the pandemic. Speaking on the sidelines of a tour of Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo yesterday, Prof Ncube said most ministries were now resource constrained, hence a decision for a quick top-up of budget allocations.
He said despite the fight against Covid-19, ministries still needed to be capacitated to carry out their mandates.
“The first order was to shift budget so we have shifted our budget to focus more on health issues around Covid-19 and also on social protection. Basically, it’s saving livelihoods, giving people money, saving jobs as well as spending on health in the first place. That is the first phase. And then obviously we have to top that up, which is the second phase so when we talk about budget revision it’s really that second phase after the shifting,” he said, although he could not elaborate when the budget review would be done.
Prof Ncube said it was necessary to have a budget review in order to streamline activities of various ministries with the work being done on Covid-19 and to alleviate the pressure that has been exerted on initial budget allocations. He said the most targeted ministry would be that of Health and Child Care which is directly at the centre of fighting the pandemic.
Last year, the ministry was allocated $6,5 billion while the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry got $8,5 billion. Prof Ncube paid tribute to development partners who have also supported Covid-19 initiatives in the country.
“What we have also seen is that development partners have also come on board to give us additional resources and counting so far, we have about US$70 million from the development partners, that is very welcome indeed,” he said.
Prof Ncube said institutions involved in the fight against Covid-19 would also be capacitated.
“This is a key institution (National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory at Mpilo) and such institutions will not be joining a long queue to get resources; we will release resources soon, now we just need to fine tune their budget which they will submit but obviously we will do it speedily. Private players have come on board donating consumables and cash, they are also donating their services and this is welcome.
“I have come to see the laboratory that is testing for Covid-19. I came here to see for myself what is needed and how we can support them to become more effective and assisting with scaling up the testing process. It’s very clear that we need more capacity in the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. I was taken through the whole process and it all starts with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), we need to buy more for the frontline testers and in addition to that they need other material for the testing process to be beefed up,” he said.
Prof Ncube also said the laboratory needed a facelift.
“I have a full appreciation of what is needed. I am also aware that over time the centre itself needs to be upgraded so that it can maintain its level pre-rating as a quality global testing centre. Our role in Treasury is to ensure that they are supplied with resources. I can find additional resources so that tests can happen rapidly and massify them. I am pleased to see the workforce of people here; they are highly dedicated people who work long hours. They are here at 6am and can leave at midnight. We appreciate the long hours they put in and as Government we stand ready to appreciate them more. We have put in place a risk allowance that is tax free and going forward we will see what else we will do to support them and keep the moral high,” he added.
The minister was accompanied during the tour by the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Vice-Chancellor Professor Mqhele Dlodlo, chairman of Nust Applied Genetics Testing Centre Mr Zephania Dlamini, Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya and Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Welcome Mlilo.