Deputy Finance Minister Samuel Undenge this week defended the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation -the government’s economic blue print for the next four years which has been described as nothing more than a wishlist- arguing that it had already started bearing fruits.
Movement for Democratic Change legislator Willias Madzimure asked the Deputy Minister whether ZimAsset was transforming the nation or not since eight months after its launch there were more black out and acute shortages of water.
Undenge said ZimAsset was a five-year programme and there had been progress in the production of maize for example.
Madzimure wondered why the Deputy Minister was painting such a rosy picture when hospitals had no water, parliament had no water, unemployed was increasing and not a single road had been developed.
“What progress are you telling this House? Are you being honest or you are lying in front of this House?” he asked and was requested by the speaker to withdraw the statement that the deputy Minister was lying.
Q & A:
MR. MADZIMURE: Thank you Mr. Speaker. My question is directed to the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. It is now 8 months since ZIM ASSET was launched and some of the landmarks or the issues that needed to be addressed first, were issues like electricity since we are experiencing more black outs; water, we are experiencing acute shortages of water. Health – infant mortality is going up. Can you update this House whether ZIMA SSET is transforming this nation or we are going back?
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC PLANNING (DR. UNDENGE): ZIM ASSET is a five year programme which was enacted last year and there are already results when you look around in terms of what is being done. It covers four clusters. The first cluster is Food Security and Nutrition. As members are fully aware, Government last season provided inputs to rural farmers so that they would produce enough food. I am sure hon. members will agree with me that maize production this year is far much higher than it was before as a result of Government supporting the programme of attaining food security. Yes, I agree that we are looking to self sufficiency where we are going to cut out imports of food production.
The second cluster that is Infrastructure and Utilities, there are efforts underway to ensure that the country is going to generate enough power. We recognise that there is a deficit, that is why ZIM ASSET aims at focusing on building more power generation and addressing all aspects of infrastructure including water and sewage reticulation.
MS. D. SIBANDA: On a point of order! Is the Hon. Minister explaining the ZIM ASSET or is he answering the question?
MR. SPEAKER: The point of order is out of order.
DR. UNDENGE: I notice Mr. Speaker Sir, perhaps she is operating on a different wave-length. The way I understood the question is that, what has been achieved? Is ZIM ASSET producing results and I am citing examples of the achievements so far. I have also indicated that it is a five year programme – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. member, please avoid being disorderly when the answer is being given. Hon. Minister, you can carry on.
DR. UNDENGE: ZIM ASSET is based on four clusters and I am attending to the achievements which have been made in each respective cluster. I started with the Food and Nutrition Security cluster, highlighted the achievements, then I am going on to the second cluster which is Infrastructure and Utilities. It is not that I am explaining what ZIM ASSET is, but I am highlighting the achievements for each cluster.
On the third cluster where we are looking at the Social Services and Poverty reduction, some efforts are being made, for example, some hospitals and clinics are being re-constructed and we also have medicine being made available, text-books being made available to schools. So indeed, there is some progress taking place. Yes, work is underway and we are hoping by the end of five years, when I stand in this House, certainly there will be more examples, more achievements to talk about.
Value addition and beneficiation is a critical component of ZIM ASSET, the respective ministries or sectors are actually coming up with value addition programmes.
So, I am happy to announce to this House that ZIM ASSET is moving very well there is progress. Yes, we do have constraints such as funding and we are negotiating with various finance facilities; friendly countries to come in and support our programmes and I believe this House also has entrepreneurs. Some of the programmes call for entrepreneurship of which you are the owners of Zimbabwe. You are the owners of the economy, take initiatives to advance the causes of ZIMASSET. Do not just wait and say ZIM ASSET will do for me. In other words, ask yourself what you are going to do for ZIM ASSET? At the end of five years, I would like to ask you what you have contributed towards the achievement of ZIM ASSET rather than saying, Minister can you explain. Thank you.
MR. MADZIMURE: Minister, I thought that you were going to tell this House about constraints that you have, but you are painting a very good picture of ZIM ASSET. Are you not paying War veterans’ children school fees, that is on the Social Sector. The hospitals have no water and are closing – that is on the Services. Parliament has no water, unemployment is going up BEAM, you are not paying for the children; the roads, not a single road has been developed. What progress are you telling this House? Are you being honest or you are lying in front of this House?
DR. UNDENGE: Mr. Speaker –
MR. SPEAKER: Order, will the hon. member withdraw the statement, ‘you are lying’.
MR. MADZIMURE: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the word ‘lying’. Minister, are you being truthful with your statements?
DR. UNDENGE: Mr. Speaker Sir, let me congratulate the hon. member for saying the truth now. Certainly, I got surprised when he said what has been happening because if you look at roads, you will agree with me that some of the potholes which used to be on the roads are no longer there. There is also dualisation which is taking place. It is evidence that something is being done and in fact, ZIM-ASSET is bearing fruits. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member specifically said nothing is being done and now, I am citing progress which is there and he is not happy that I am citing such progress. When it comes to hospitals which you are talking about, you are leaving some things which have been done and pointing to those things which are still to be done, like water. There is some reticulation at Morton Jaffrey, there is work being done in Chitungwiza and yes, work is not yet complete; it is on-going and we should take full cognisance of that fact. Mr. Speaker, I think at this stage if the hon. member needs to know all the details, I welcome him to my office for further information so that at least the House can proceed.
DR. SHUMBA: My supplementary question to the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development. In order for Zimbabwe to effectively unlock value through the ZIM-ASSET project, I would like to know through you, Mr. Speaker, what is the policy of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, regarding the inconsistencies of your departments, mainly ZIMRA, in shrinking our economy by the continued penalties that are levied to industries and other business sectors across the country, with respect to the development of the country and in particular, given that the Government itself is impecunious and yet we continue to expect industry to perform miracles. Companies are shutting down every day.
DR. UNDENGE: Mr. Speaker, let me spell out the mandate of ZIMRA. ZIMRA is mandated to collect revenue from each enterprise and from individuals. It has to perform that duty and perhaps, let me remind you of the biblical statement that was the answer which was given by Jesus that, “give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar”. Of course, ZIMRA, when you go there and if you do not pay your tax, they are bound to take some action. However, if there are circumstances beyond your control, I think ZIMRA makes arrangements with you for you to pay the tax.
For example, if you are not able to pay because you have not been paid what is due to you, ZIMRA quite understands and it is not the aim of ZIMRA to shut down or close down industry or companies. Its aim is to make sure that it collects revenue which is due to the fiscus or the Government as I have said, “give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar.”
That problem is not a new problem. It has been biblical; Jesus said, “give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar” when a similar question was asked.
DR. SHUMBA: Through you Mr. Speaker, I did mention that there is nothing wrong in industry paying taxes. The issue is, if we have to make adjustments for Government to collect revenue, we should not kill the cow that we are milking. ZIMRA is levying unreasonably high penalties to the industry sector. Employers would rather employ and pay somebody a net salary and maybe default on payee. It is up to ZIMRA to make adjustments for the collection of the outstanding taxes in an orderly fashion that allows the economy to continue to function than shutting down the very companies that we expect to tax tomorrow. I am saying, what is the policy in cushioning industry given that Government itself is experiencing the same impecunious situations?
DR. UNDENGE: Mr. Speaker Sir, I think the hon. member agrees that people should pay their dues. I think the question is, for example, if a company is unable to pay timeously because of certain circumstances, and he is asking whether ZIMRA can do something. As I have said, ZIMRA usually has a payment plan. Where there are heavy penalties, I think it is an area ZIMRA would have detected attempt to default from paying the tax. That is when it descends with heavy penalties, for example, when you are trying to play cat and mouse, and then you are eventually caught. You do not – [HON. MEMBERS: Cat and mouse] – Yes correct, thank you hon. member. Mr. Speaker, I think he has not cited a particular example to say this is what happened – but the way I understand it, if you are caught trying to run away from payment, then you receive heavy penalties. I urge members and corporates to pay their dues and to pay unto Caesar what is due. I thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: I will rule out on the question of further supplementary and if there are any members who want more detailed responses, they should put down in writing their questions. Let us have new questions without notice.