FINANCE and Investment Promotion Minister, Prof Mthuli Ncube will today traverse a very tight rope as he delivers the 2024 National Budget amid very high expectations which may not be met due to limited resources.
The treasury boss has since done himself a favour after pre-emptive proclamations during the pre-budget meetings earlier when he revealed that bids submitted by line Ministries amounted to ZW$110 trillion but only ZW$47,8 trillion could be funded.
Effectively, more than 57% of what line Ministries had budgeted for was cut down, meaning that there will be less to expect in terms of the expansionary expectations by citizens on the part of the government.
The blueprint set for delivery this afternoon sounds noble considering that it just anticipates a 3% budget deficit, effectively implying that the nation will be eating only what it kills.
However, citizens await to see how the Treasury boss intends to deal with ZW$ depreciation risk factors following numerous reports from experts blaming the latter for setting on the money printing machinery each time government contractors are paid.
Such a tendency has earned widespread criticism from industry which often suffers the long-term blow of ZWL exchange rate depreciation.
As checks and balances to the Treasury’s claims that the forthcoming budget will be pro-poor, citizens await to see how welfare-related Ministries like Education, Health and Public Service will be catered for.
The budget will not pass its litmus test if it fails to address the excruciating state of informality in the economy which has seen the majority of citizens being involved in highly precarious and underpaying types of jobs.
Over the years, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has pressed the government to pass a Job Rich growth centred budget arguing that it is the only strategy to ensure that the nation’s wealth cascades down to the last man on the ground.
Accordingly, there is a need to put in place measures which bolster confidence within Zimbabwe and abroad to ensure job creation.
There is also a need for Ncube to employ measures targeted at the vulnerable groups of society like the disabled, orphaned, and widows.
More importantly, the youth who as confirmed by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) around 2,3 million youths in the country are Not in Employment, Education or Training and dire need of salvage.
The much-awaited blueprint will not have served its purpose if it does not address key challenges confronting industry such as electricity and foreign currency availability.
Ncube is also expected to pave the way for the country’s co-option into the global village by synthesizing a practical plan to deal with the country’s debt.
The boiling question among several stakeholders is, “How realistic will Ncube’s budget blueprint be?” considering the vast challenges line Ministries have faced in the past after failing to receive the entire allotted resources.
Some stakeholders are interested in finding out how the expected catastrophic drought will be dealt with.
Measures to fast-track the Vision 2030 Agenda attainment are also on top of the expectations, especially after considering that Zimbabwe has failed to sustain the 9% economic growth target since the inception of the economic reforms, obviously casting the attainment of the goals in doubt.
Admittedly, it will however be unfair to expect the National Budget alone to address all the lasting solutions to the country’s back-dated problems.
Ncube will require holistic support from other key institutions and stakeholders. But how he circumvents such challenges will be answered this afternoon.