Some Harare residents say the government should prioritize social services, health, agriculture, energy and power development in order to improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans who are struggling to cope in the absence of a social welfare system as the economy continues to stutter.
They told a parliamentary budget committee that the state needs to do more to create jobs as life is already tough due to continued company closures.
Valerie Jani of the National Association of Non-governmental Organizations told the committee that the government must strengthen revenue collection and raise more money for social services and health issues.
Local resident, Adolf Mavheneke, said the government must take away money from the defense ministry and give the health sector, which currently gets most of its funding from international donors.
The government, said Mavheneke, must meet its commitment in the Abuja Declaration which it signed agreeing to set aside 15 percent of its budget for health services.
Member of the budget and finance committee, Eddie Cross, responded saying given the support from international organizations, the health budget is far exceeding the 15 percent threshold stipulated in the Abuja Declaration.
However, experts say the government has a responsibility to provide adequate funding to the health sector, adding a disaster is possible in the event that donors stop funding the sector.
Darlington Madzonga and Chitungwiza junior councilor, Constance Katsiru, were of the view that education must be prioritized ahead of all the other ministries to ensure that all children and youths have access to primary, secondary and tertiary education as stipulated in the constitution.
Other residents like Paddington Japajapa said with an agro-based economy, the budget must provide more funds for agriculture to ensure maximum production in the country.
The residents further noted that there was lack of transparency in the way state funds were being handled, saying state agencies like the Zimbabwe National Road Administration and the police must surrender all revenues to the Consolidated Revenue Fund so that they become part of the national cake.
Jani said the 2016 budget must provide a framework for such a development.
Sakhile Sifelani of the Women and Politics and Support Unit concurred, adding that there is need to monitor the implementation of the budget.
Most of the residents, however, said they are worried that the consultations were hurried. They urged the committee to allocate them more time make their contributions towards the national budget.
Others were bitter that the government has in the past solicited their input but this was not reflected in the final budget.
Lawmaker, Munacho Mutezo, who was leading a group from the budget committee taking people’s views in the northern and eastern parts of the country, told residents that while not all of their contributions would be included in the national budget, some of their concerns would be taken on board.
The finance ministry is expected to draft the 2016 budget next month amid a worsening economic environment which has seen government revenues dwindling to below $4 billion dollars annually.