Biti tears into Ncube’s ‘lipstick and mascara’ mid-term budget

Tendai Biti and Mthuli Ncube

HARARE East MP Tendai Biti yesterday tore into Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2019 supplementary budget, describing it as a big fraud and misrepresentation of the true state of the economy.

He said this during debate on the budget in the National Assembly, where he chided Ncube for skirting the inflation figures because they were embarrassing.

Biti also said people in Zimbabwe were wallowing in poverty to the extent that 79% are surviving on US$0,35 cents per day.

“The minister says the budget will be increased by $10 billion when, in fact, it speaks of anticipated revenue of $14 billion and an anticipated expenditure of $18 billion,” he said.

“In 2019, we approved a budget of US$6 billion and now, the supplementary budget is $14 billion and yet the black market rate is at 1:10 ratio, and what this actually means is that you have reduced the budget from US$6 billion to US$1,4 billion.”

Biti also blasted Ncube for producing the supplementary budget without a growth rate figure.

“The much-hyped myth about the budget surplus is a misnomer because you cannot boast of a surplus using cash accounting, and when ministries are struggling in debt with no drugs and textbooks. We cannot talk of a surplus when there is a deficit of $4 billion, which is 10% of the total budget,” he said.

Biti described the budget as a smokescreen marinated with language, and as a “lipstick and mascara” budget.

“Ncube has unlawfully converted US$9 billion Treasury Bills (TBs) to $9 billion in breach of section 71 of the Constitution because TBs were never indexed in the Zimbabwe dollar. Ncube does not have power to suppress inflation figures or issue a directive to ZimStats (Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency) that they must suspend publishing inflation figures,” Biti said.

Budget and Finance Portfolio Committee chairperson Felix Mhona, while presenting the committee report on the budget, said it was immoral for Ncube to boast of a surplus when government departments were incurring debts.

Mhona criticised Ncube’s underfunding of Parliament, saying the institution had accumulated many debts, with MPs being chucked out of hotels over unpaid bills.

Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) then said the allocation for MPs vehicles was revised from $21 million to $81 million and given the interbank exchange rate of 1:9, meaning that MPs will get $25 000 each, “which is too little”.

Mliswa said the money paid to MPs as hotel bills must be given to them so they manage for themselves where they will stay.

Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) said war veterans must be allowed to import vehicles duty-free.

Meanwhile, leader of the MDC in the National Assembly, Thabitha Khumalo, claimed that her party did not walk out of Ncube’s mid-term supplementary budget presentation last week, but were locked out as they were praying in the government cause room to break their party’s week-long fast.

She said after their prayer session, they went to the House for the budget 20 minutes late only to find that the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda had instructed Parliament police to cordon off the House and bar the opposition MPs.