2024 Budget gets nod with amendments . . . Taxes, passport fees, tollgates slashed

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Mthuli Ncube

A marathon debate which lasted over 10 hours from Thursday afternoon stretching into early yesterday morning ended with the National Assembly passing the 2024 National Budget with amendments to proposals presented by Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Mthuli Ncube last month.

The National Assembly sat from 2.15 pm on Thursday to 00.49 Friday when it passed the two Budget Bills, the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill. 

The Finance Bill deals with taxation changes and other revenue matters while the Appropriation Bill gives permission to the Government to spend, as detailed in the estimates of expenditure.

On the taxation front, almost all of Prof Ncube’s proposals were passed including the benefits to taxpayers on new tax-free and wider tax bands, but he backtracked on his wealth tax of one percent on residential property by increasing the point where the tax cuts in to US$250 000, decreasing the age when exemption starts to 65, exempting the primary residence of the taxpayer, and placing a limit of US$50 000 a year on the tax from any individual.

After intense debate, the minister reduced the proposed ordinary passport fees from US$200 to US$150. 

He did win the battle over his new sugar levy on sugar in soft drinks. Prof Ncube defended the introduction of the sugar levy saying it was necessary for the procurement of drugs and equipment for cancer treatment.

“We need this sugar tax to pay for some of these critical infrastructure and drugs. I must say that the original two cents, actually that was a mistake, we made a mistake in that calculation, those are the facts. It should actually be 0,2 cents, which means that if you have got a can of coca cola, if it is 300ml, it has got about 135 grams of sugar in it, so 0,2 cents, that means an extra seven cents on that can of coca cola, that is what it translates to. I do not think seven cents is a big deal. Surely that is affordable, let us support this cancer fund effort,” he said.

The minister reiterated that Government would always make sure that the cost of basic commodities would remain affordable.

“I now turn to the issue of duty on basic commodities. As Government we will do whatever we can to make sure that basic commodities are affordable to our citizens. So, we always try especially when prices shoot up, we will open borders. We have seen that is almost like our default reaction because we think that is the only way to support our citizens to access cheaper commodities when we open up. 

“We are also aware that we do not want to kill our industry. I heard the plea from the sugar sector for example and we will be careful,” he said.

Some spending proposals were increased from the original $58,2 trillion budget after submissions by stakeholders and legislators.

Prof Ncube allocated of an additional $70 billion to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and a further $225 billion to Parliament to bring its allocation to $700 billion. He added $10 billion to the Auditor General’s office whose initial budget was $116 billion.

The Ministry Women’s Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprises development had an additional $20 billion to support the cause of gender equity while the Ministry of Youth Empowerment Development and Vocational Training received a further $50 billion.

The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry had a further $10 billion while that of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development received an additional $7 billion to assist disabled students.

“I also listened to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee that covers Defence and Security in the area of War Veterans, Honourable (Albert) Nguluvhe, and other contributors. Again, there is an oversight where there was no budget for the funerals of war veterans. An allocation will be extended towards that Ministry again to deal with that matter and the other matters within that Ministry.

 “I also listened carefully to the contributions regarding the companies that are under this Ministry that they should be supported to take off. They will be supported; just to say a few things, I was personally involved in the creation of these companies. I know the whole history,” he said. 

Prof Ncube said the budget was crafted in the context of resource constraints caused by sanctions and lack of access to credit.

“Mr Speaker Sir, naturally, we are constrained for resources. So, you will find that our approach in this budget has been to deal with that, to raise as much resources as we can. 

“We have sanctions and constraints globally, in terms of access to credit, that is really what has driven us. We also want to move our country to the next level as we try to achieve the 2030 Vision of being an upper middle-income economy,” he said.

Herald

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