Zimbabwean Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi presented his 2008 budget to parliament on Thursday, optimistically a 4% expansion of the moribund economy with inflation slowing to 1,987% from its current official level of 8,000% - but failed to give a budget total which some estimated to be quadrillions of Zimbabwean dollars.
Mumbengegwi admitted Harare faces massive hurdles, but voiced optimism they could be overcome, saying, “The challenges of reducing inflation and restoring increased production necessary for economic recovery are enormous, but surmountable.”
Mumbengegwi gave no total budget estimate, resulting in confusion as politicians and journalists added up line items and wrestled with large number theory. The local currency is currently trading at more than Z$1 million to the U.S. dollar.
Reuters tallied a 2008 budget of Z$7,840 trillion, or Z$7.84 quadrillion. Opposition politicians implied the budget was a fantasy and Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai speaking of "zillions" in a statement hammering the government's economic policies.
Mumbengegwi said spending on food in what he termed a “people budget” will double next year to US$405 million from US$178 million this year. His budget also raised the threshold under which no income tax is paid to Z$30 million from Z$4 million.
National Chamber of Commerce President Marah Hativagone told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the budget helps workers in the short term but disappointed business by failing to envision an official exchange rate adjustment.
Biti of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said Mumbengegwi's budget could not be called people-oriented as it was "the most anti-people budget since independence."
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...