PARLIAMENT AND THE NATIONAL BUDGET PROCESS: “PROMOTING CITIZENS’ PARTICIPATION IN BUDGET FORMULATION”
Greetings fellow bloggers! I hope I find you well. The 4th Session of the Eighth Parliament has well and truly kicked off and it coincided with that time of the year again- National Budget Season. Parliament, as has become tradition since the onset of the reform process and the attendant re-engineered budget process, plays an active and indispensable role in the formulation of the National Budget. And so it should, as it embodies the people’s elected representatives and, implicitly, the people’s aspirations.
Prior to the onset of Parliamentary Reforms, Parliament had a minimal role to play in the formulation of the National Budget. The introduction by Parliament and endorsement by the Executive of pre-Budget public consultations by the Portfolio Committee on Finance, sectoral consultations by other Portfolio Committees, as well as the subsequent Pre-Budget Seminar, which brings together Parliament and the Executive in determining priorities for the ensuing year’s budget based on the input from the public, was a tacit recognition of the role of Parliament as the supreme representative institution. Therefore, the involvement of Parliament and, by extension, the generality of Zimbabweans at the formulation stage of the national budget, helps in actuating a participatory and transparent budget process which is inclusive of all classes of people as envisaged in Section 141 of the Constitution. This is in line with international best practice and the principles of good budgeting.
To that end, the Pre-Budget Seminar was held at the ZITF in Bulawayo under the theme, “Enhancing Transformative Economic Development Through Domestic Resource Mobilization and Utilization.” This year’s seminar brought together Ministers and Parliamentarians with the aim of:
· Reviewing the macro-economic performance of the current national budget;
· Determining priorities for the 2017 National Budget premised on the input Committees received from stakeholders and the general public; and,
· Proposing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time-Bound) solutions for growing the national cake through domestic resource mobilization.
The thrust this year was on mobilizing domestic resources to finance the economic turnaround of the country. To that end, the people of Zimbabwe, through their Parliamentary Committees, have proposed viable solutions to accelerating economic growth through domestic resource mobilization. Some of the submissions made by Parliamentary Committees include the following:
· The need for the relevant Ministry to speedily conclude the renewable energy policy so that the country can fully benefit from natural endowments such as solar and biogas to mitigate the sub-economic tariffs caused by high cost of imported electricity;
· Expeditious crafting of legislation to regularize, de-criminalise and mainstream artisanal and small-scale mining into the economy as it is a latent source of revenue for Government;
· Leveraging on ICTs to enhance the ease of doing business, promoting development of new industries and to stimulate economic growth;
· Deliberate tax exemption policy for machinery and equipment for value addition and beneficiation;
· Commitment to eradicating corruption which will foster domestic investor confidence;
· Policy consistency which engenders both local and foreign direct investment; and,
· Rationalisation of the Civil Service by removing ghost workers and retrenching non-priority staff among other interventions.
The people of Zimbabwe have spoken through their elected representatives. The people of Zimbabwe have proposed home-grown solutions to mobilise resources and grow the national cake. The onus is on the Executive to take on board all the constructive and ideas and recommendations from the people of Zimbabwe.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development will present his budget statement in the National Assembly on Thursday 1st December 2016, under the motion that leave be granted to bring in a Finance Bill to make provisions for the sums of Zimbabwe, in line with the provisions of section 305 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The adoption of the motion will culminate in the presentation of the Finance Bill. The Finance Bill provides for the revenue raising measures for the state. The Appropriation Bill will also be presented and this outlines the individual Vote Allocations of the various Government Ministries, Commissions and Institutions for 2017.
The role of Parliament in the National Budget however, does not end with passage of the budget. In terms of section 299 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Parliament has oversight on state revenues and expenditures to ensure that (a) all revenue is accounted for, (b) all expenditure has been properly incurred; and (c) any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed. We will consider the role of Parliament and its Committees in exercising oversight on state revenues and expenditures in the near future.