FINANCE Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said Government will soon remap new boundaries of land that was acquired under the land reform programme while any gazetting of land going forward will be accompanied by an explanation.
Chinamasa said the remapping would establish new boundaries using GPS. Resources were availed by the European Union while the United Nations Development Programme would provide technical assistance. “The GPS will establish new boundaries with exactitudes of 4cm. He said 23 teams from Treasury will be assigned for the process which will start in Mashonaland West”.
Chinamasa said production of land acquired under the reform programme was “scandalously” low and it was important that Government takes measures to enhance productivity and in the process unlock growth. Resources had been provided to the Ministry of Lands to do evaluations for the majority of land which was compulsorily acquired. “Of the 6 000 farms which were acquired only 1 500 had improvements which were evaluated so it is important to expedite the process. All of this is being done with the intention of removing lingering disputes pertaining to the land issue.”
He acknowledged that the policy on BIPPA farms not being invaded or acquired had been breached but Government would now “look at reality, respect what is still there and deal with the issue on a case by case basis.” The Land ministry had been given resources to speed up the evaluation of BIPPA farms.
Government had also availed funds for audits to detect anomalies associated with the distribution. “Some of the anomalies are that some of the official would hide some farms from being gazetted in order to protect white farmers or some would hide or protect the farms for their own personal use. But this is from the grapevine.”
He said gazetting of farms would not stop but any action in the future will be explained in the spirit of transparency
Government has however not said anything about farmers who hold certificates of no interest some of whom were part of the 15 which were recently gazetted.
Chinamasa was speaking after a wrap up meeting of the15-month Staff Monitored Programme assessment and Article IV consultations.
With respect to diamonds, Chinamasa said that there was no going back on consolidation although Government would allow the law to take its course over the companies which have gone to court. “We have consistently raised our concern and disappointment over the little revenue we were getting from the diamonds. However we are now consolidating the sector for transparency and accountability.”
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company had started operations after a $3.5 million injection which was used for acquiring new equipment and working capital. Already the company had extracted 100 000 carats from dumps on the three mines, Kusena, Marange, Jinan. 15% of the carats were are gem and near gem. Chinamasa said there is now a new relationship. “Under the consolidation, the diamonds that are extracted belong to the fiscus. We are going to make the figures public”
After successfully meeting the quantitative and structural benchmarks under the SMP, Chinamasa said that Government was now addressing the issue of arrears clearance. “The road is now reasonably clear following the review of the SMP and we can now focus on arrears clearance.”
He said the country was far ahead with the reform agenda but acknowledged that the economy was under siege due to the effects of the El-Nino-induced drought. “The economy is under siege we have the worst doubt in living memory and this has affected the economic growth rate.”
He reiterated what President Mugabe said that no Zimbabwean will starve although the figure of the vulnerable had risen to 3 million. Government had allowed the private sector to import grain with no limit to the number of licences that will be granted while the teething challenges faced by the Grain Marketing Board of Zimbabwe in moving grain to outlying depots had been addressed.
Government has also been re-engaging the International Fund for Agriculture Development for the resuscitation and rehabilitation of small scale irrigation schemes across the country with a view to ensuring food security and to mitigate the impact of the drought.
On Indigenisation, the minister said the only outstanding issue was on the empowerment levy which he said would however be set at a level which does not cripple or burden the already highly taxed companies. “We have however not yet started the discussion… and any decision on the levy will have to come to the Finance ministry for approval. What will inform us is that we must not kill businesses.”
With reference to the wage bill, Chinamasa said Government would reduce the wage bill to 52% of total expenditure from current 82% under a staggered progressive process by 2019. He said parastatals should target 30% of their expenditure to wages and the rest to service delivery.FinX
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette