PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s new, 29-member Cabinet, sworn in yesterday to take charge of government affairs for the next five years, will cost the cash-strapped administration billions of dollars in consumptive expenditure, which include top of the range vehicles and housing allowances.
President Mugabe was naturally expected to rein in profligacy by trimming the Executive to save cash to fund crucial services such as health care and road construction and rehabilitation. Instead, he came up with a government that retained battle-hardened veterans at the helm, with 25 deputies, mostly young Turks who will also enjoy good packages.
While on paper, the number of ministries were reduced to 26, from the 33 that were in place during the inclusive government, if Ministers of State were factored into the Cabinet line up, the number increases to 29 members.
Cabinet ministers enjoy several perks, which include a latest Mercedes Benz plus another vehicle like a Prado or Range Rover.
In Zimbabwe a Mercedes Benz is valued at US$ 170 000 each while a Prado or a Range Rover averages at about at about US$110 000 each.
This means on vehicles alone, government will gobble about US$280 000 on each Cabinet minister.
Total expenditure on vehicles for Cabinet ministers alone would be close to US$1 billion.
Government will have to purchase vehicles for members of the expanded legislature, with 270 cars required for the National Assembly and 80 for the expanded senate, which will cost close to US$1 billion.
These figures do not include vehicles for the 10 provincial Ministers of State and 25 deputy ministers unveiled by President Mugabe on Tuesday.
Ministers earn about US$2 000 per annum, which translates to an additional US$1 million to be spent on the executive salaries in the next 12 months.
This week, analysts warned that contrary to the perception that government had been trimmed, public expenditure on Cabinet Ministers would increase, and that would place excessive pressure on an already cash-strapped fiscus.
The added expenditure for the new Cabinet could far outweigh Zimbabwe’s US$3,4 billion revenue projections for 2013.
This had not been budgeted for, and could force government, which has been re-elected based on populist policies, to persuade both the Executive and the legislature to delay receiving their dues.
“It (government expenditure) will be actually worse,” said the MDC-T’s secretary for economic affairs, Eddie Cross.
It will be difficult to rein in expenditure by the Executive and legislative.
Official statistics indicate that ministries and government departments have been depleting their budget allocations at an alarming pace.
During the first half of 2013, the inclusive government expended 70 percent of the US$41 million allocated for full year foreign travel, and only US$13 million had been left for the remainder of the year.
Government expenditure, with the 33 ministries in place, ended the first half at US$1,828 billion, against a budget of US$1,762 billion.
Many felt that President Mugabe should have compensated for the expanded legislature by naming a much smaller Cabinet to save funds.
“Cabinet is still bloated,” said Takunda Mugaga, head of research at Econometer Global Capital. If they could afford 33 ministers in the GNU, they could have afforded to have half the ministers with a single political party in government. In real terms, the Cabinet is still bloated, the expenditure envelope will grow,” Mugaga said
The Cabinet, described by many as mediocre given that it is made up of the same old faces, some of whom have been dismal failures in previous administrations, will have to confront an aggravating economic crisis characterised by continuing company closures, a deteriorating liquidity situation and unemployment.
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