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2012 budget framework sets the tone for 2012, 2013, 2014 fiscal planning in Zimbabwe
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
October 13, 2011

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Introduction and Background

Following the presentation of the Mid Year Fiscal Policy Review Statement (MYFPRS) by the Honourable Tendai Biti, Minsiter of Finance on 26th July, 2011 we featured an analytical piece on the 10th August, 2011 and noted some positive developments on the country’s fiscal planning radar. We applauded the Minister for introducing the Budget Strategy Paper (BSP):

“On a positive note the MYFP review introduces a Budget Strategy Paper (BSP): Government will commencing 2012 prepare a Budget Strategy paper to guide budgeting for the forthcoming year (2012), whilst providing indicative fiscal priorities for 2013 and 2014. This is a welcome fiscal planning tool that will give fiscal planning a medium - term perspective, and hence lock in credibility in public finance management. This is in line with international best practices, and in Sub – Saharan Africa (SSA), countries like South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, and Namibia have such approaches to national budgeting. Some countries assign the name Budget Policy Paper, or Medium Term and Expenditure and Fiscal Framework (MTEF). It will make the budget a more predictable planning tool, and hence create a platform for an all inclusive and participatory budget framework in Zimbabwe, a major pillar for building a durable economic governance and democratic society”. (SAPST, Daily News, 10 August, 2011).
Since then, we have been patiently waiting for this fiscal planning instrument, which was eventually tabled in Parliament by the Minister on the 5th of October 2011.

What is a Budget Strategy Paper?

The Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) is a budget policy framework, which provides the context and background to the budget. This includes the government's fiscal and economic strategy, key budget priorities, and overviews of revenue, expenses, and financial statements for the government as a whole. It also provides information on recent economic conditions, economic performance, key economic forecasts and financial relations. It is a public finance planning tool meant to facilitate broader participation and in - depth debate on the national fiscal and other macroeconomic policy issues as a prelude to the 2012 Budget formulation. This is no new phenomenon to Zimbabwe, given that in the mid nineties we used to have a Three Year Rolling Budget Framework that provided for a fiscal framework spanning over three years, and featuring expenditure control instruments such as stop payment. If you remember very well, under this system ministries were given ceilings to spent within for the budget year, with forward expenditure ceilings for the next two outer years. This was abandoned, when the economy slipped into economic instability that was characterised by hyperinflation that accounted for inflation levels of as high as 128 million percent in 2008, hence rendering fiscal planning a futile exercise.

The major difference between the BSP and the Three Year Rolling Budget is that the latter was not available to Parliament, and the public. This approach is contrary to best practice in public finance management where there is need to open up the Budget to the society, so as to improve social accountability in the implementation of government programmes. In the foreword to the BSP, the Minister submits that …”the BSP is a new important element we have developed to underpin participatory democracy, inclusivity and ownership in policy formulation. The Budget is an important fiscal element that must belong to the people and the BSP serves to guarantee a bottom – up approach in budget formulation” (BSP, October, 2011). In line with this the Minsitry of Finance has since rolled out country wide consultations to funnel input into the 2012 Budget guided by the BSP, hence our interest in this Treasury output. These consultations commenced from the 5th of October, 2011 and will run until the end of October beyond which they will be consolidated into the 2012 budget for presentation to Parliament towards the tail of November, 2011.

What are the Key elements of the BSP?

It also identifies issues to be addressed in the 2012 National budget derived from previous budget consultations, Medium Term Plan (2011-2015), STERP II, Government Work Programmes, and Sectoral Plans for the country. The Budget Strategy Paper buttresses the Public Finance Management Act [PFMA] (Chapter 22:19) as well as rebuilding policy management capacity and accountability in the management of public resources, given that it opens up the budget formulation to a wider stakeholder base, that includes the institution of Parliament. The Budget, Finance and Investment Committee of Parliament has since taken advantage of the BSP, and is currently rolling out nationwide Public Hearings on the 2012 Budget. Stakeholders should thus work with this Committee to influence the input into the budget, and hence maximise budgetary outcomes for Zimbabwe’s prosperity. The BSP provides a medium term planning platform in public finance management, which in Zimbabwe’s context should foster to align spending to budget policies, and the Medium Term Plan, 2011 - 2015 (MTP). The BSP has the following key elements: -

1. All macroeconomic assumptions such as the inflation outlook, exchange rate movements, national output, movements in production across key sectors of the economy and any other variables that provide a direction on the growth of the economy are laid bare. This improves both public sector planning and that of the private sector as such information improves the predictability of the business operating environment.

2. A macro – economic fiscal framework (MFF) giving the revenue and expenditures of government for the year budget year under and focus (2012) and the medium term (2013 and 2014). This is the aggregate public resource capacity of government for the period, or what we usually refer to as the fiscal space. When talk is about government has no fiscal space, the issue is that does government have enough revenues to finance government programmes? If there is no fiscal space, government usually incurs a deficit, and hence has to shelve some programmes, and even borrow to fund some of these programmes if they are absolutely necessary.

3. By providing sector spending ceilings, planning at the ministry and spending government agencies becomes much more aligned to national priorities and government policy goals and objectives. This fiscal planning tool makes it imperative for ministries to fit their programmes for 2012 within the set expenditure ceilings, whilst allowing them scope to engage Treasury for a fine tuning exercise to align their spending to overall government goals. It removes the traditional incremental budgeting approach which results in wish listing by government departments, hence compromising credibility in public fiancé management. Ministries are allowed some degree of delegated budgetary decision making power, in reviewing the strategic priorities, and their linkage with central government planning, hence engendering a fair compromise of the Top - Down approach in fiscal planning to a fair balance of power that also embeds a Bottom - Up approach, a major tent of democracy in economic governance.

The BSP thus provides a sound basis for locking in a credible budget for 2012 if utilised accordingly. In countries such as Uganda, for example, Parliament is allowed to review the Budget Framework three months ahead of it being used to prepare the National Budget for the forthcoming year. In this case, members of parliament retreat into consultations with their respective constituencies and stakeholders, and then revert back to Parliament to engage the Minister of Finance with feedback. The Budget Committee takes a coordinating role to lead debate on the Budget framework, which once exhausted is adopted then assigned to the Ministry of Finance to prepare the budget. Uganda is taken to be a good example of a country that implements a broad based participatory budget process, which engenders ownership in the allocation of public resources and hence national development. In this regard, Zimbabwe is treading on the right path in public finance management, transparency and accountability.

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