EDITORIAL COMMENT: Election spending binge is perilous

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Election spending binge is perilous
President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

JUST as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listed Zimbabwe among 20 fragile sub-Saharan states whose economic performance has deteriorated sharply, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government ramped up its inflationary election-related spending.
First was the announcement that Treasury will purchase 226 vehicles for chiefs, at an estimated cost of US$10 million.
This was followed by another $5 million allocated to Members of Parliament under the Constituency Development Fund.
These scarcely disguised vote-buying schemes demonstrate beyond doubt that Mugabe and ZANU-PF are intent on breaking the bank to secure re-election next year.
Contrary to clear constitutional provisions, traditional leaders remain unashamed, partisan tools in ZANU-PF’s power retention agenda.
The cars are their price for next year’s election.
Similarly, the constituency development fund is essentially a war chest for sitting lawmakers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ZANU-PF, seeking re-election.
This, coupled with the ruling party’s astonishing $8 million budget for its congress, set to be held next month, provides more proof, if any was needed, that fiscal prudence is an alien concept to Mugabe and ZANU-PF.
Their inflationary proclivities are laid bare by the fact that ZANU-PF has inflated its congress budget from $1 million in 2014 to $8 million this year!
Government continues to thumb its nose to wise counsel that it must curb its appetite to spend what it does not have.
Never mind the IMF and its exhortation for government to live within its means. Local business leaders have cautioned against the inflationary effects of government printing money with reckless abandon, using Treasury Bill issuances.
The ZANU-PF government’s growing election shopping list will almost certainly be funded through borrowing from the local market, with inflationary consequences.
In yet another politically-motivated move, government has expanded the Presidential Farm Input Scheme, from about $30 million last year to close to $200 million this term.
Although it has been bunched together with the special maize importation substitution scheme, dubbed Command Agriculture, the presidential scheme has no built-in cost recovery system.
This means inputs are given gratis.
Expanding it essentially extends the president’s vote buying drive, using tax funds.
Insisting on playing power games as dark clouds gather ominously over the economy shows ZANU-PF has no desire, or capacity, to respond appropriately to the challenges. Political expediency trumps economic considerations.

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