The government’s continued dependence on donors to finance its budget, its failure to implement fully the year 2011/12 budget and high recurrent expenditure in the forthcoming budget look to be major sources of heated debate when parliamentarians start discussing the 2012/13 budget next week.
Most legislators have expressed eagerness to contribute to the debate, slated for June 18 through June 21 as some began registering their names even before the budget was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday.
A number of legislators who spoke to The Guardian shortly after Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Dr. William Mgimwa had read the budget speech expressed their dissatisfaction with several areas in which, they said, the government had failed to show due seriousness and commitment in the public interest.
Moses Machali, MP for Kasulu Urban (NCCR-Mageuzi) said the budget was not realistic, adding that he did not expect anything new in the presented budget estimates as they were simply full of figures as in past budgets.
“I doubt the government’s commitment and seriousness to implement this budget. Look at what happened to the 2011/12 budget. Most local governments received less than 30 per cent of the funds which were allocated to development projects. How can they implement the lined up projects without money?” Machali queried.
“A clear example is the Ministry of Transport which received only 46.5 per cent of the total funds budgeted for various activities. Does the government honestly expect the ministry to operate efficiently? It is impossible, and we will tell them next week that it is time they walked the talk instead of presenting figures which have proved to be unrealistic almost every year,” he added.
Machali noted further that while it was almost every ministry’s outcry about receiving less allotted funds, it was a contradiction to hear Minister of State in the President’s Office (Social Relations and Co-ordination) Stephen Wassira claim that by April 2012 development partners had fulfilled their financial commitments by 84 per cent and domestic revenue collection stood at 104 per cent.
Wassira was presenting to the House the state of the country’s economy for the year 2011/12 and the national development plan for 2012/13 on Thursday morning.
Bariadi East lawmaker Andrew Chenge (CCM), who also serves as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Economy, said the difference between the funds allocated to recurrent and development expenditures was unacceptable.
“We discussed this matter exhaustively at the committee level and our position was that the budget for development expenditure be raised to 35 per cent from the proposed 30 per cent.
“This could be done by cutting on recurrent expenditure from 70 per cent to 65 per cent, but finally we resolved to give the new Finance minister the benefit of the doubt and hence accorded him the opportunity to prepare a better budget for next year (2013/14)” affirmed Chenge.
Finance minister Mgimwa has been in office for less that 45 days as he was appointed on May 4 when President Jakaya Kikwete announced a new cabinet line-up, sacking 6 cabinet ministers and two deputies due to various shortcomings, including poor office management and malpractices.
Chenge added that it was the government’s duty to gradually wean itself from donor dependence, adding that although it could not be done overnight it looked like the government was not making enough effort to do so.
Kilwa legislator Murtaza Mangungu (CCM) said there were some measures which were welcome, but expressed skepticism about the implementation of the budget.
“It is good that the government has seen the importance of reducing taxes on capital goods but I am not pleased by its continued dependence on donor funds. We have to find a way of gradually reducing this dependence with a view to eliminating it altogether. You can not be proud of depending on other nations to fund your development programmes year in, year out,” noted Mangungu.
For his part, Korogwe Urban MP Yusuph Nassir (CCM) criticised the restriction imposed on the importation of used vehicles based on the year of manufacturing, saying the move defeated the proposed reduction of taxes on gas-powered equipment and accessories.
“While we hail the reduction of taxes on gas-powered equipment, why, in the same breath, limit the importation of used vehicles to eight years since their manufacture ostensibly to avoid environmental degradation while we encourage usage of gas-powered vehicles. Why then restrict the importation of used vehicles when an alternative source of clean energy - gas – is available?” Nassir wondered.
He said he would raise his voice on the floor of the House when debating the budget estimates to ensure the proposed limitation on used vehicles was reviewed.
The budget for the financial year 2012/13 shows that the government plans to use Sh15.1 trillion, of which Sh 10.591 trillion is for recurrent expenditure and Sh 4.527 trillion is for development expenditure.
The government plans to collect Sh 8.070 trillion through taxes and Sh 644,582 billion through non-tax revenue.
Other sources are local government authorities’ own sources (Sh 362,206 billion), general budget support (Sh 842,487 billion), foreign loans and grants (Sh 2,314,231 billion), domestic borrowing (Sh 1,631,957 billion) and non-concessionary borrowing (Sh 1,254,092).