PARLIAMENT’S adjournment for two months ahead of the 23 August elections, which effectively means Finance minister Mthuli Ncube does not have to answer pressing questions over the worsening economic crisis, is set to plunge the country into public finance management paralysis, deputy Public Accounts Committee chairperson Edwin Mushoriwa has said.
On 15 June this month, Parliament’s acting Speaker William Mutomba announced that both the National Assembly and Senate would adjourn proceedings until 22 August, a day before the elections.
He also revealed that parliamentary committees will not be sitting until that date which is two months away.
“I have got an announcement to make. Following the adjournment of the House to 22nd August, 2023, all committee business is accordingly suspended, effective 15th June, 2023,” he said.
However, in an interview with The NewsHawks, Mushoriwa said a crisis will ensure if Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda does not recall the MPs for sittings in-between the twomonth adjournment.
“The net effect is that there will public finance management paralysis. The 2023 budget passed by Parliament in December is exhausted. The public service workers and other workers who get salaries in RTGS are in a precarious position as they cannot make ends meet following the spectacular fall of the RTGS rate,” Mushoriwa, who is also Dzivarasekwa MP, said.
“Mthuli Ncube should present a supplementary budget plus the mid-term fiscal statement which should give government a plan, if any, to stop the economic bleeding faced by Zimbabweans.”
Last week, MPs demanded that Ncube avail himself to the National Assembly to answer questions as Zimbabwe faces resurgent hyperinflation amid skyrocketing prices. The prices of basic commodities are now beyond the reach of the majority.
American applied economics professor Steve Hanke has warned that the country was on the verge of yet another hyperinflation episode as monthly inflation by his measure had reached 102%. The figure had exceeded 50% in 25 days.
If that trend continued, Hanke warned, Zimbabwe will be on track to experiencing hyperinflation anytime soon.
Hyperinflation was witnessed in 2008, reaching some of the highest levels ever seen, leading to an economic meltdown, falling standards of living and total disruption of the marketplace. Monthly inflation climbed to 79.6 billion percent, while the annual rate of increase surged to 89.7 sextillion percent in mid-November 2008.
Zimbabwe’s annual official consumer price inflation rose to 86.5% in May 2023, up from 75.2% in April, marking a deviation from the downward trend observed since the beginning of the year. However, Hanke says inflation is actually 761%.
The country’s protracted problems reflect political instability and extended periods of economic mismanagement.
MPs in Parliament last week said as a result of currency volatility and rising inflation, the majority of Zimbabweans are failing to access basic commodities, while many workers are living in abject poverty.
In the aftermath of currency trade liberalisation, the Zimbabwe dollar continues depreciating, weakening from US$1:ZW$5 086.3307 recorded last week to US$1:ZW$6.926.5764 at the official auction system, while it scaled US$1:ZW$10 000 on the parallel market, decimating salaries and plunging the standards of living of already impoverished Zimbabweans.
Glen View South legislator Fani Munengami last week asked Mutomba why Ncube was taking long to present a ministerial statement on the economic situation.
“I will repeat the issue which has to do with ministers who do not come to Parliament. We ask questions and no-one answers. No minister has come to give us a ministerial statement with regards to issues of national interest,” he said.
“I gave an example of the minister of Finance, Honourable Ncube — we raised the issue of our currency which has been hit hard by inflation. As of today, the rate is ZW$6 000 against US$1. We have asked what the minister is doing about this issue because Zimbabweans are suffering, but he has not yet come to this House to explain.
“We are about to go for elections and no minister has come to Parliament. Have they gone short of plans? May you give us direction, Honourable Speaker, on how we should convey these issues to the minister so that they come to Parliament and give us ministerial statements,” Munengami asked.
Makoni Central legislator David Tekeshe also contributed to the discussion.
“My point is similar to that of Honourable Munengami. I got into a shop today and I was shocked to find that the local currency was around ZW$6 000 and ordinary people can no longer afford bread.
“We need to come to the point of CDF [Constituency Development Fund] which is just lying idle because no-one wants the RTGS and they charge the black market rate. The request is that if Parliament could negotiate to benefit from the auction floor so that this is looked into because ZW$21 million has gone down to US$4 000 and is no longer enough for the constituency,” he said.
Ncube recently paid surprise visits to Bulawayo shops, ordering them to slash US dollar prices, raising a public outcry.