Zimbabwe MPs put further strain on dollarised budget

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Hard-hit Zimbabwean taxpayers will have to fork out a whopping US$2 million on imported vehicles for the country’s legislators. New MPs and senators in the upper and lower houses are all in line to access funds to buy cars for use during their constituency business.

The budget for the legislators’ cars is contained in a blue book presented to parliament by acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa last Thursday.

There was still no budget allocation for the construction of the long-awaited new parliament building in Harare’s Kopje area to deal with an increased number of MPs and the re-introduction of the Senate. The Senate has 66 members and the House of Assembly has 210 legislators, up from the previous 150.

Chinamasa did not say how many vehicles are to be bought, but MPs who have previously benefitted from the scheme would be excluded. MPs from both the opposition and the ruling Zanu PF party have previously defended the scheme – which is officially a soft loan – as necessary to enable them to do the business of their constituents.

Zimbabwean authorities, seemingly giving up the fight against inflation, released a national budget in United States dollars for the first time last Thursday.

The Zimbabwe government aims to raise foreign currency through a number of taxes. Workers earning in foreign currency will also be targeted. Earnings of up to US$125 will not be taxed, while those earning US$126 to US$500 will be taxed at a rate of 20 percent.

Those earning between US$501 to US$1,000 will be taxed at 25 percent, while those taking home between US$1,001 and US$1,500 would face a 30 percent tax. Earnings of US$1,501 to US$3,000 will attract a 35 percent tax, and anything above that will see the state claiming a cut of 37,5 percent.

In this the 2009 budget, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture was allocated the highest vote of nearly US$285 million, followed by Health and Child Welfare at US$206 million and Defence at US$140,3 million.

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