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Social protection assertion queried



FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube says Zimbabwe has increased spending on social protection and infrastructure development since 2018, but his claims are contrary to what independent think-tanks have been saying.


 Zimbabwe is preparing for the 2024 National Budget, amid growing concerns over deteriorating social protection, with almost 40% of the population wallowing in abject poverty.

Ncube however insists that the government is doing well on social protection. In his Pre-Budget Seminar presentation, Professor Ncube said Zimbabwe’s revenue has increased considerably, which has seen a sharp rise in social protection spending by over 200%.

“Government revenues in United States dollar have increased substantially from US$2 billion in 2018 to current levels of around US$7 billion. This is a testimony that the economy is indeed growing and more resources are being channelled towards addressing the needs of citizens,” he said.

“Revenue collections for the period January to September 2023 stood at ZW$11.5 trillion (approx. US$4.1 billion), against expenditures of ZW$12.6 trillion (approx. US$4.5 billion), resulted in a budget deficit of ZW$1.13 trillion.

“Cumulative revenue collections for the period January to September 2023 amounted to ZW$11.5 trillion, comprised of tax revenue of ZW$11.2 trillion (97.5% of total revenue), and non-tax revenue of ZW$288.2 billion (2.5% of total revenue).”

He said the government has, since August 2022, been making substantial savings, ap- proximately 30%, through implementation of value for money on procurement of public goods and services.

“This is being achieved through the review of the procurement processes, including requirement to exercise due diligence to avoid paying for overpriced products.

“Government is currently working on strengthening the Public Procurement Act, and relevant regulations, including the introduction of the e-procurement system. Already, the Government has set standardisation of prices of goods supplied to all Government Departments.”

 However, findings by a study titled Five Years of Progress or Stagnation published by the Sivio Institute in August, the Zanu PF government has failed to deliver in the social services cluster that includes pension systems and allocations, housing, health, education.

The government made nine promises with regards to pension systems and allocation, with a performance of 49%, while making 15 promises in the health sector with a performance of 37%.

More promises were made in the education sector, with a performance of 47% while the lowest score was recorded in housing with a score of 36%.

 For instance, while the Zanu PF government promised to build 78 new hospitals and at least one new hospital per administrative district by 2023 to promote the health sector, it has managed to build only 13 new clinics. 

 The government has also allocated 11% of the national budget on health, which is 4% lower than its target of 15%.

 “Under the Health sub-sector, two promises have been broken; (i) the review of the remuneration structure for medical professionals and (ii) ensure that the Treasury allocates at least 15% of the National Budget to health[1]care (in line with the Abuja Declaration). The period under review has been characterised by a number of industrial actions, especially by nurses and doctors going on strike for improved conditions of service.

“Several nurses have taken advantage of opportunities in the UK to migrate there,” reads the report.

With the national hospitals in a dilapidating state, the government has also missed its target to reduce hospitals fees by at least 50% and to provide free healthcare for cancer patients, as per its 2018 promise. 

 In 2022, the government effected a hike in hospital fees which would see adult and children consultation fees pegged at US$12 and US$6, representing a 1 748% hike, sparking an outcry.

 Ncube also said the government has been  making strides in building houses as part of its social protection scheme, which has however not been the case over the past five years.

“Housing development for both residential and institutional accommodation is underway. Key projects that were completed include Lupane Civil Servants houses, Binga houses and Beitbridge flats. On-going works in Marondera, Dzivaresekwa and Senga are focused on residential flats, as well as servicing of stands,” he said.

 “The number of housing units completed and fully serviced as of end May 2023 stood at 49 150 and 136 850, respectively, giving a total delivery of 186 000 housing units across all provinces.”

This is ironic as the Zanu PF government has failed to meet its target to build 1.5 million housing units as per its 2018 manifesto, in collaboration with the private sector, with only 180 000 units being built, according to the Sivio Institute’s barometer.

 The government has also failed to keep its promise to invest in more schools and proper resourcing of existing ones by 2023.

According to the report, the government has managed to register only 33 new schools, upgrading 13.

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