MPs: Why we’re saying No to Mgimwa’s Budget

Mr Zitto
Opposition to the 2012/13 Budget continued yesterday, with MPs demanding that the financial plan that was tabled last week be overhauled as soon as possible.

Debate on the budget began yesterday. Objection to the budget started with the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Economy, Mr Andrew Chenge (Bariadi West-CCM), who called for “tremendous changes” in the document.

The lawmaker said it was necessary to overhaul the budget not only to make it acceptable but also enable the government to attain its financial and development goals in the forthcoming financial year.

Shadow Minister for Finance Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma North-Chadema) was just as blunt. He wanted Dr Mgimwa to withdraw the Budget and go back to the drawing board on the grounds that the measures outlined to implement it do not reflect the requirements of the five-year National Development Plan.

Most of the MPs who spoke after the contributions of Mr  Chenge and Mr Kabwe also faulted the financial plan, with the consensus being that it should be overhauled. 

Censure of this year’s Budget started the week before its reading in Parliament on June 14, when Finance minister Mgimwa presented it to the Finance and Economic Affairs Parliamentary Committee in Dar es Salaam.

Immediately after its presentation last week, this year’s Budget drew a barrage of criticism from various quarters of society, including ordinary wananchi and experts, on the grounds that if approved, the financial plan would do very little to address the country’s welfare problems and development challenges.

The most contentious issue has been the amount of funds allocated for recurrent and development spending, with opposition to the 30 per cent of the Sh15 trillion allocated for the latter.

Yesterday, Mr Chenge proposed that the Finance Bill be tabled and passed at the end of the budget session in order to make room for a major overhaul of the government plan. Article 63 (3) (c) of the Constitution, he said, empowers Parliament to discuss and confirm short and long-term plans that the government wants to implement.

Said Mr Kabwe: “It is through this that we passed the five-year development plan last year... but since the 2012/13 Budget which has been tabled does not fulfill the requirements of the plan, the Official Opposition requests the government to withdraw the budget and reframe it to reflect the requirements of the development plan.”

But his request was shot down by the chairperson, Ms Jenister Mhagama (Peramiho-CCM) who allowed the debate to continue.

Earlier, Mr Kabwe outlined an alternative Budget setting out how the government could increase local revenue collection, adjust expenditure and ensure that development activities are allocated 35 per cent of the budget.

He suggested that the government look at tax exemptions, tax structure, income tax, taxation of mining and mobile phone companies, the forestry and hide and skins sector, management of national debt, improvement of business within East Africa and controlling government expenditure.

On the expenditure policy, the shadow minister said the focus should be on creating a conducive environment for the growth of the rural economy by investing in roads, energy, water, irrigation, health and education.

He also proposed major rehabilitation of the central railway and its Tanga-Arusha and Mpanda tributaries. Other proposals include increasing the lowest wage to Sh315,000 per month, establishing a pension scheme for those aged more than 60, boosting the capacity of local industries, especially in agro-processing, and reducing government expenditure.

Mr Kabwe accused the government of failing to take stock of implementation of the budget, to the extent that it has been repeating similar strategies each year for the same problems even when those strategies had failed.

In the last Budget, he noted, the government adopted the system of issuing permits to businessmen to import sugar as a way of controlling the price.

It has repeated the same system this year even though the price of sugar rose to more than Sh2,000 per kilo after the permits were issued.

Mr Chenge said the government should look at ways of controlling inflation as the best way of reducing the increasing cost of living.  “Strategic national economic growth needs high integrity and discipline on public expenditure, revenue collection and investment in human resources,” said Mr Chenge when tabling the committee’s views on the Budget.

Ms Sara Msafiri (Special Seats-CCM) wondered why the government has set aside Sh50 billion for compensation of people whose land would be taken for establishment of export processing zones in Bagamoyo and Kigoma while agriculture development in major valleys has been allocated only Sh67 billion.

“For instance, Kilombero valley has been allocated only Sh1 billion and it is for a feasibility study,” she added.

“The government should tell us when we are going to start serious farming and produce enough food for our people.”

Mr Hamad Rashid Mohamed (Wawi-CUF) accused the government of neglecting implementation of the five-year development plan and noted that failing to effectively implement plans has been a serious problem for the government. Research on annual budgets, he added, showed that the government was capable of implementing only 62 percent of the budget.
Source: The Citizen,http://www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Peter Nyanje and additional reporting by Sturmius Mtweve
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