Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee has described as unrealistic the four-point plan Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe seeks to adopt to fix the economy.
In his Mid-year Budget Review Statement delivered in Parliament on Friday, Gondwe outlined his four-point plan which includes scaling up smallholder production of legumes, expected food to address shortages, scaling up crop production through Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and fiscal consolidation by reducing the budget by K23.7 billion from K929 billion.
But Budget and Finance Committee chairperson Rhino Chiphiko, in the committee’s response to the Mid-year Budget Review, yesterday trashed the legumes proposal as an alternative to tobacco production.
He said the country’s problems could not be addressed by smallholder legumes production.
Said Chiphiko: “Currently, imports exceed exports by about $1 billion. Smallholder production cannot be scaled up to even 30 percent of that shortfall.”
On the proposal to scale up irrigation through GBI, the committee said it would be irresponsible to sell food grown by contract at subsidised prices when the same government has given out fertiliser subsidy to farmers through the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp)
The committee spoke against politically induced subsidies at the expense of drugs in hospitals and classrooms for learners.
Said Chiphiko: “Let us be sober on the issue of subsidies and not be obsessed as has been the case.”
He also demanded an indication of the cadres which would be affected by the hire freeze as the Minister of Finance carries out his fiscal consolidation by revising the budget as a quick fix to the ailing economy and struggling 2015/16 National Budget.