THE Covid-19 pandemic, successive droughts among other economic shocks, have affected Government’s budget processes, but will not deter it from pursuing the developmental agenda in line with national vision of making Zimbabwe an upper middle-income economy by 2030, a Cabinet minister has said.
Covid-19 has affected most of the global economies and Zimbabwe has not been spared.
The pandemic came at a time when the country was still to recover from Cyclone Idai which hit Manicaland province last year in March and successive droughts in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 farming seasons.
In an interview yesterday on the sidelines of his visit to SOS Children’s Village in Bulawayo to assess Government funded projects under the 100-day cycle, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Responsible for Monitoring and Implementation of Government Programmes Dr Joram Gumbo said disasters have created an additional cost for Government.
He said funds that could have been used to improve service delivery were diverted to attend to the natural disasters.
“Covid-19 has affected the 100-day cycle programme because it’s something that has come unexpected. It’s something that was unbudgeted for. Government operates on a budget and as such its programmes were affected when money was diverted to take care of the pandemic. Government had to house people who were infected by the pandemic, provide transport for returning citizens, provide frontline workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other such financial commitments. We are wearing masks now and these were not budgeted for by Government or any company,” he said.
Minister Gumbo, however, said despite the challenges that impacted on national coffers, Government continue to implement projects and programmes aimed at realising its Vision 2030.
“Government has continued to make provisions for national development despite the many challenges and economic difficulties. You can see the road infrastructure is still going on. You must also understand that because of drought that hit us for the past two farming seasons, we had to cushion the people which again was not budgeted for. Government has been importing grain from South Africa, Zambia and other countries to ensure the citizens do not go hungry. It has also been working with developmental partners such as the World Food Programme and other donors in providing food for our people,” he said.
Minister Gumbo said Government was not giving up because of shocks brought about by the pandemic and other natural disasters. “Government is balancing between managing the shocks and moving the country forward,” he said.
Minister Gumbo said projects such as Pfumvudza are part of the bigger schemes to address food security issues.
He said Government was also mechanising the agricultural sector through partnerships with countries such as Belarus.
At SOS Children’s Village, the Minister was informed that the institution received $115 000 in July to cover operational expenses, a figure he said needs to be reviewed in line with what is obtaining in the economy.
“The funds are inadequate to meet the growing needs of the home and the compelling need to review the quantum per capita grants cannot be ignored,” said Minister Gumbo.
He commended the institution for counselling the children housed at SOS Children’s Village, saying this was important in ensuring that they do not face difficulties when they leave the home. The institution is home to 92 children comprising 54 boys and 38 girls.
The children are divided into family units just like in any home and each family is headed by a mother. Minister Gumbo was taken through some of the homes where the mothers explained how they live with the children, projecting a normal home set up.
“I commend the efforts being made at this home aimed at ensuring the psychological development of children. During my tour, I have noticed that you make deliberate efforts to prepare children for integration into society when they have reached adulthood. I refer to the establishment of the SOS Youth Facility meant to enable youth who are between the age of 18 and 23 years of age to access tertiary education including vocational training in preparation for adult life,” said Minister Gumbo.
“This initiative will allow for their smooth transition into mainstream society and will help them avoid becoming street kids or engaging in prostitution and other criminal activities. Your set up is indeed unique because most children’s homes lag behind in terms of providing effective post-orphanage care and support programmes for orphans.”
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube hailed SOS Children’s Village for its services to the disadvantaged children.