True to his hint, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe revised upwards the proposed 2015/16 National Budget from K901 billion to K930 billion.
Now, good ’ole Goodall faces the challenge of matching available resources with budget allocations. It is one thing to raise the bar and another to fulfil the promise.
From reviews of the current national budget expiring on June 30, it is clear that most government departments, ministries and agencies never got the funds they were allocated on paper. If anything, many got either a quarter or half of their purported allocations.
To balance the equation, the departments and ministries cut down on expenditures. They spent their funds on what they found to be priority areas. However, in most cases, essential and critical services suffered. For example, due to drastic cuts in budget allocations, we saw some hospitals lacking basic must-have pain-killers, asking patients to buy from private pharmacies. Sadly, many of the patients could not afford.
Budget cuts also negatively affected justice delivery. In some situations, some courts found themselves in embarrassing situations where they had to “beg” for stationery from court users, notably lawyers.
In my entry soon after good ’ole Goodall presented his proposed budget in Parliament on May 22, I indicated that in making assumptions for the 2015/16 national budget, the minister fell short of declaring that government is broke.
Further, I said desperate situations demand desperate measures; hence, with or without budget support from our development partners, Goodall knew life had to go on, which is why he attempted to balance a national budget with available and other practical resources.
Goodall boldly said there will be no budget support in the budget. Donors, who had been contributing about 40 percent to the national budget and 80 percent on the development budget, withdrew their assistance in October 2013 in protest over the plunder of funds at Capital Hill.
Now, almost a month later, the reality on the ground is that the minister has increased the budget. However, what is not clear is where the additional K29 billion from.
We have every reason to get worried if the source of the resources are not available, it does not make sense to “give” that which you do not have. It is better to tell the truth than to “insult” someone with an empty pledge.
In the absence of a clear indication of the possible source of the extra resources for a government living with a budget deficit for years now, borrowing is one possible source, in a bid to impress or, as politicians do, “shame the critics”.
Taking the borrowing path will, however, in the long-run, only worsen the situation as we will expand our country’s public debt—both domestic and foreign. This may not be sustainable. While borrowing may give interim relief, at the end of the day, we will have mortgaged this country and worsen the burden for our children, their children’s children and so on and so forth.
Third United States of America (USA) president Thomas Jefferson, who is regarded as America’s founding father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, said something about money. I thought this quote should be a point of reflection as good ’ole Goodall and his team plan to roll out the 2015/16 national budget from July 1: “Never spend your money before you have earned it”.