By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, September 21, 2016 – CITY residents and civic group leaders have called on government to consider trimming its bloated cabinet and further limit unnecessary foreign trips by top officials as part of government’s cost cutting measures.
This they expressed during a 2017 pre-budget consultative meeting in the eastern border town on Friday.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed during his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review recently that government’s wage bill was gobbling nearly 97 percent of the national revenue.
He further proposed to lay off 25,000 civil servants, cut salaries and allowances but the measures were vetoed by cabinet.
However, Mutare residents said the move was noble if only government could begin austerity with a leaner cabinet.
They said government should further merge some ministries and do away with deputy ministers.
Stakeholders also said there was unnecessary duplication of government roles in top leadership position.
“The culling should start from the top to bottom. The cabinet is bloated with some people who are not doing anything. For example, the Ministry of ICT can be merged with Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services to become one ministry.
“Professor (Jonathan) Moyo should oversee the primary and secondary as well as tertiary sector. That way, we save lots of money and channel it towards development,” said Mildred Muzanechita of Zimcodd.
Currently, government has over 60 ministers including deputies.
Allan Machingauta, a resident, said it was ironical that local leaders were flying abroad to seek medical care while local hospitals went without drugs and equipment to serve the poor.
“Why do you fly away abroad yet you can use the same money to invest in local health institutions,” questioned Machingauta.
He further said the Executive should prioritise attending foreign meetings that are of financial and trade gain to the country as well as limit the number of dignitaries who attend.
“We are a country that is in deep financial stress and it is imperative for the Executive to only prioritise those foreign meetings or conventions that are of financial gain to us. We should also limit the number of delegates and aides that attend the few meetings we chose to attend.
“Take last year’s Chinese visit for example, most Cabinet Ministers attended and government had to fund such a costly trip whose financial benefits we are yet to see, that is if they ever materialise,” said Machingauta.
Maxwell Chindewere said government should respect the international conventions which the country was a signatory to.
Chindewere said every national budget should prioritise the health, education and agriculture to boost food security.
According to the Abuja Declaration, 15 percent of the national budget should be channelled towards health delivery while the Dakar Declaration indicates that 20 percent should go towards education.
The Maputo Declaration states that 10 percent should go towards agricultural development.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to all the conventions.