KAROI — The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development got off to a poor start here on Monday following a poor turnout.
About 50 residents of Karoi town and the outlying communities attended the pre-budget consultations at Chikangwe Community Hall which has a capacity of about 400 people.
Hurungwe Central Member of Parliament, Godfrey Beremauro, who is part of finance portfolio committee, expressed disappointment at the poor turnout.
The hall, furnished with only five benches, served to highlight the desperate state of the country’s social services, an issue which incidentally dominated the discussion on Monday in the farming town.
Some 45 minutes into the proceedings, benches borrowed from nearby schools started trickling in, also highlighting how poorly organised and publicised the entire event had been.
The committee, chaired by Chimanimani West MP, Munacho Mutezo, is on national tour to get contributions for the 2016 budget as mandated by the Constitution.
“Very few people can spare time to attend such important meetings as most breadwinners are hard pressed to get just a dollar for their families. I cannot attend the national budget (consultations) as long as my family has no food on the table,” said Ranganai Matewe, an airtime vendor at Chikangwe bus terminus less than 100 metres from where the meeting was being held.
Some residents said the public meetings were a waste of time and resources.
“No one will ever listen to us, so why bother attending such meetings? This is another way of wasting the scarce resources in the country because the chefs do not even consider anything from the laymen,” said a local businessman, who refused to be identified.
The Karoi residents who managed to attend the budget consultation meeting called on government to allocate more funds to social services, including health and education, and to improve food security.
Kudakwashe Chigumo, a local councillor, kick started the discussions by suggesting that the forthcoming budget must slash the defence vote.
“Our nation is not at war, so we must slash the defence vote. We must rather focus on health, education, women and youth affairs,” said Chigumo.
He said government needed to commit to the five percent allocation earmarked for local authorities so that they could develop and boost social service delivery.
Hope Masomere, a woman resident, called for more funds to be allocated to women, but advocated an increase in the defence budget.
“There are many old army officers who must be replaced, although we must recruit the younger generation. We need more soldiers,” she said.
Another council official, Obert Mutenga, appealed for government to stop the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) from taxing local authorities on expected income.
“When ZIMRA comes they want the tax on the budgeted figures even if you collected less than 10 percent of the actual budget and we are always forced to look around for the money from other areas of revenue which is why we are always in the red financially,” said Mutenga.
A youth officer, Tapiwa Masenda, said the youth ministry should get enough funding to empower youths who constitutes 70 percent of the population.
The youth ministry is, however, at the centre of a controversy after employing nearly 10 000 youth officers currently accused of being the bulk of ghost workers in the civil service.
“There must be more money to the Home Affairs Ministry to deal with corruption especially police officers sucking from the poor,” said Masenda.