HARARE – In a surprising revelation, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube disclosed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa actively participated in the formulation of the 2024 national budget, underscoring the level of involvement of the President in economic policy decisions.
Ncube stated that the budget, to be presented in Parliament, essentially represents President Mnangagwa’s input.
In an interview with a State-owned local television channel, Ncube shed light on the collaboration with the President outside of Cabinet meetings.
He explained, “I meet the President every week, not in Cabinet. We meet because the Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion ministry reports directly to his Excellency. It’s his ministry, so we meet every week to discuss policy issues.”
Ncube went on to describe the depth of the President’s involvement in budget discussions, stating, “When it comes to the budget again, I take him through our thinking in terms of the excess budget and how the economy is doing.”
“I take him through the revenue measures, and he always comes back, pushes back, and gives us ideas. He always asks very good questions.”
He emphasized that Mnangagwa had provided significant input into the budget, making it, in a way, “his budget.”
Mnangagwa’s contribution raises concern
However, concerns have been raised about the limited public consultations for the budget, which were conducted primarily online and through public radio stations.
Public finance watchdogs fear that this might result in a budget that does not adequately reflect citizens’ aspirations.
Rejoice Ngwenya, executive director of the Coalition for Market and Liberal Solution, expressed skepticism about Mnangagwa’s depth of contribution, suggesting that the budget might be overly militarized.
He commented, “If indeed, as he says, it’s his budget, it’s going to be shallow and uneventfully dreary.”
John Maketo, programs manager at the Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development, emphasized the need for the budget to address the immediate needs of ordinary people, be inclusive, pro-poor, and close existing inequality gaps.
Effie Ncube, spokesperson for the National Consumer Rights Association, urged the government to take stakeholder input seriously, emphasizing that consultation should be a good-faith engagement.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) challenged Ncube to present a pro-poor budget and urged a review of taxes downwards for those earning less than a living wage.
The budget presentation comes at a time when the majority of Zimbabwe’s citizens are grappling with poverty, a depreciating Zimdollar, and economic challenges.
Calls for a return to dollarization persist, but President Mnangagwa remains committed to his dedollarization strategy introduced in 2019.