Biti strikes pro-poor tone in 2013 National Budget

Finance Minister, Hon Tendai Biti on 15 November presented the 2013 National Budget to the joint session of both Houses of Parliament.   The budget was presented    amid high expectations from a cross-section of ordinary Zimbabweans, who are eager to see an improvement in social services provision and other amenities. The Budget will be the last in the lifespan of the Inclusive Government (IG) since its consummation in February 2009.

Speaking to the Crisis Report Team, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Spokesperson and the Director of Bulawayo Agenda (BA), Thabani Nyoni, said the budget was a "good statement of intent €.

"One of the key observations that we have made is that government intends to increase disposable income by increasing threshold on bank charges to US$ 800, and also leaves teachers with US$ 1000 non-taxable income. The budget also increases allocation for education and health and shows commitment to support constituency development through the provision for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). It is also a response to the ailing health sector €.

In both absolute terms and relative percentages compared to last year, the budget increased allocations to health and education. The budget also pays attention to other pro-poor issues such as rural development through road and health infrastructural development.

"Government will kick start an ambitious plan to enhance accessibility to health care for rural people through the construction of at least a hospital in each District €, the Finance Minister, revealed. This would also include a consideration to build more provincial hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo.

Minister Biti said, "For the health sector under pro-poor social services, we have also made allocations to ensure that terminal illnesses such as HIV/Aids are treated as well as cancer. We have made provisions for medicines like antiretroviral drugs €.

"In terms of education, we have exceeded the Dakar Declaration which requires that 20% of the budget must go to education. Our allocation this year is 27% of the budget. We have also increased duty on tobacco and alcohol imports to directly fund education. This includes vocational training, primary education and tertiary education as well as student support €.

However, Speaking to the Crisis Report Dr Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said that although the budget is an improvement from last year it does not meet the Abuja Declaration for health allocation. The declaration by African government recommends that health should be allocated 15% of the total budget.

"Although the budget is an improvement from last year, it needs further improvement to meet the Abuja Declaration recommendations. If we compare the allocation to health with that of defense we see that defense has always been given disproportionate attention. Furthermore, we applaud the move to construct a hospital in each district, but we think that more attention should be given to staff retention. Conditions must be created which make it more tenable for health staff to work in those rural areas, € Dr Bonde said.

Crisis Coalition Spokesperson, Thabani Nyoni said, "While we are happy with the budget, we call upon the Inclusive Government to ensure the multiple sources of revenue to support government expenditure such as diamonds in Marange, foreign direct investment and grants from International Financial Institutions are secured through stable economic policies that give confidence to all stakeholders €.

The budget has increased allocations to both health and education by 2% from that of last year, but relative growth of the total budget is 52%. The budget which is a total of US$ 3.8 billion is an increase from that of last year which was US $2.5 billion.

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