Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) notes with grave disappointment the 2022 Mid-Term Review and Supplementary Budget presentation by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube.
The presentation, which essentially doubled the national budget to ZWL 1.9 trillion does not in any way answer to the needs of those in the informal economy and indeed in the greater population. If anything, it illustrated that the Minister is completely out of touch with the ordinary person’s lived reality in the country. His assumptions such as the increasing if the tax-free threshold to ZWL 50 000 per month, ostensibly to boost disposable incomes is preposterous give the runaway inflation being experienced, which for the month of June stood at 191.6 percent.
VISET is outraged that the extortionate 2 percent tax is being maintained, along with a trebling of the withholding tax of 10% of the value of commercial goods imported by cross-border traders to 30%, with effect from August 1, 2022. These measures are a further attempt to strangle the informal sector by a Minister who is not shy to display his love for corporates and big business through awarding of tax breaks at the expense of small enterprises battling to earn a living in a turbulent economy. To further illustrate the contempt in which the Minister holds for the majority poor who bear the brunt of his chaotic economic policies, he proposes spending a paltry 7 percent of the supplementary budget on social security. There can be no doubt that poverty levels in the country are unprecedented and that there is urgent need to come up with concrete solutions to address the crisis.
With regards the health sector, where lives are being lost everyday owing to lack of medical supplies and equipment, dysfunctional machinery and a debilitating brain drain, the Minister in response proposes a duty-free facility for scientific equipment. What yesterday’s presentation confirmed is that Minister Ncube and reality are two things that can never be spoken in the same sentence. In turn what we challenge him, the rest of his colleagues and members of parliament to go to any municipal clinic and major referral hospital and see if they can get any treatment or medication.
In our view, Zimbabwe is a rich country with abundant sources where revenue can be obtained to spend on social services to its citizenry. One such is the implementation of value addition on agricultural produce such as tobacco, where companies pay farmers as little as USD 3 and export for as much as USD 17 where little to no value added! Mining is another, where ore is being extracted and exported to be processed and refined in neighbouring countries with negligible fiscal benefit to the nation.
VISET will not condone the further suffering of informal economy actors through the assumptions as contained in the Minister’s presentation and will be advocating for surgical corrections to be implemented before it can be passed, and we urge our parliament to for once side with the people.