Tendai Biti is Wrong; Chinamasa’s Budget Is Much More Than Lipstick

Tinashe Nyahasha Avatar
Patrick Chinamasa

Tendai Biti who was the Minister of Finance in the Inclusive Government of 2009-2013 and is a principal in the opposition MDC Alliance has come out strongly against the 2018 National Budget delivered to Parliament on Thursday the 7th of December 2018. Biti labels the budget a ‘lipstick measure.’ Whatever that means.

His argument is that when the government talks of shedding off more than 3 000 Youth Officers it is very insufficient because the government has 200 000 ghost workers ‘on staff.’ He may be right but he is letting politics and the forthcoming election get in the way of objectivity. To be fair, the substance of the budget is positive, reasonable and realistic. I do not know how implementation will unfold but in and of itself you can’t judge the budget harshly as Biti has done.

The more outrageous criticism by Biti is this one,

 …the attempt at repealing the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, the attempt at reining in government expenditure particularly through the curtailing of travel allowances and conditions of service are things that ought to have been done many years ago, but they are nominal, normative and lipstick.

To criticise on the basis that what the government is attempting to do now must have been done many years ago is nothing but criticism for criticism’s sake. Does he mean that the current government should leave its mistakes as they are because they have been making them for years? When then should things change? ‘When’ Biti himself gets elected to the high office? Nothing should happen until the saviour comes?

Believe me there are several things I would have wished for in the budget particularly recognition of the technology sector as a fundamental strategic sector that needs to be invested in for long term economic growth and global competitiveness. These are wishes and I did not expect this budget to grant them, why?

I am as much a pragmatist as I am an optimist. As a politician, I expected Tendai Biti to be more pragmatic. Whether you agree with the events that led to Mnangagwa assuming office or not, you must acknowledge the practical reality that Zimbabwe is in. This government has a maximum of 8 months before next year’s general election.

The commitments that the Finance Minister announced on Thursday are quite a handful for the limited time they have. We can’t be naive to the fact that the politician’s first job is to get elected/re-elected. As a result, the budget was going to be always about quick gains that will give the incumbents the highest likelihood of winning at the polls. To do that they have decided to repeal the one legislation they have beaten their chests about for the past two decades.

I would challenge Mr. Biti to applaud that effort. Politicians sometimes fail to realise that they score more when they acknowledge some good done by the opposition rather than trample on what the electorate actually judges to be a breath of fresh air. Parick Chinamasa’s budget is a step in the right direction.


  1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    If your abusive father stops beating you, should your mother sing praises for him? Sure, you’ll be grateful that it’s stopped, but that doesn’t mean you are grateful to your father.

    That said, Biti has been Minister before and probably is in a better position to comment/criticise than you are. Besides that, if you don’t understand what he meant by a lipstick measure, then you are criticising something you don’t understand. You could have just Googled first.

    1. Aurther

      Biti, a politician trying to get into office in 2018, in a “better position to comment/criticise” than anyone else ? Really?

      1. Tinashe Nyahasha

        That is the problem…

      2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        In a better position than the author. Read carefully. In as much as he is trying to get into office, please point out what points he raised are out of order. Having an agenda doesn’t mean everything you say is to promote your agenda.

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Good point there on the abusive father analogy
      Even better point on Biti having been a minister before. Not sure I trust his objectivity though.

  2. solo munhu

    Biti is being very reasonable simply calculate salaries of 3000 against 170 000 even for just 6 months. This is lipstickish. Health should have more priority than defense.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Here’s where pragmatism comes in: would Chinamasa admit the existence of ghost workers or would he silently stop processing their ‘salaries?’

      1. Anonymous

        Am not sure am getting you. But the reality is most principled people cannot trust Zanu PF from past experiences. If its true that there are indeed 200 000 ghost workers then not being open on the part of Chinamasa will not build trust. What the “new” government needs to work on is sincerity which in turn breeds in trust. Hiding a huge figure of 170 000 will not help our trust issues with these guys.

        1. Tinashe Nyahasha

          I got ya, 100% I got ya

  3. Victor Corrie ngara

    Too complicated

  4. Victor Corrie ngara

    Too complicated it’s unzwisisicable

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Very sorry Victor. It’s failure on our part when we complicate things. Will do better

  5. Fj

    Not sure why indegenisation laws should go
    Zimbabwe should have the opportunity to be in big business and not just be employees
    The government should not be lazy they should work and get the priority industries broken down into sizeable units so that the people can get capital and also become owners of factories in Zimbabwe

    They should not just be desperate to get FDI
    Only but should makes sure local people own something not just a job

    Have we not learnt anything from what happened these past 20 years the minteam the investors disagree with local policies they close shop, leave many unemployed and pitch up elsewhere
    We can’t have that again
    Because sometimes investors bring impossible demands and things that as a society Zim is not ready to accept
    So while FDI is good making it easier for local people to jointly share in the ownership will ensure that our economy in is not beholden to foreigners which is why the economy fell very hard as many companies relocated because of the land issue
    Indegenisation is very much the way forward
    But the government should provide robust frameworks for it to work

    Ownership is better than jobs

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I do not think the solution is to legislate locals into ownership of businesses at the expense of someone else’ capital. We should have an environment where locals can thrive without necessarily fostering a culture where citizens just take ownership based on nothing but entitlement.
      Reserving specific sectors for individuals makes sense or even restricting the number of foreign players in certain industries etc but not to have a blanket imposition of majority (even minority) shareholding in someone’s enterprise. That is nothing but a big dose of scarcity mentality.

      1. Anonymous

        Thing is we undervalue what we have, just because the locals do not have hard cash does not mean they have nothing
        Minerals and land are their resources
        Food production and mining still have a huge
        Return even in developed countries they still need food and organic food is increasingly becoming profitable

        Yes we should make strides in IT but someone somewhere needs to grow food mine minerals needs for tech products
        Look at China, this is why they are in Zim and other African nations, they need those raw materials. And so when they come, we should bargain hard for value addition instead of letting them get our resources at a pittance
        They go and develop those same resources and sell them to us at prices we cannot afford
        That will keep us in debt to people who had nothing but a little bit of cash
        What we have is worth a lot we should have the correct judgement of what our resources are worth and not be cowed at the negotiating table you mention of a few million dollars when the actual worth of those resources is in the billions

        There already have been examples of some African countries selling mines at a pittance to people who made up that money back in matter of months
        In some cases the locals gethe very menill jobs
        Top jobs go outsiders so I think it is time to consult widely , take stock of what the country has package it, then look for investors and look for fair deals
        At present not many know what is available and how it can be leveraged for the benefit of the country
        Yes information technology is good let’s go for it as well but the physical wealth that we have is also worth a tremendous amount let us not be a rush to sign deals esp with Chinese esp after what has already transpired

        1. Tinashe Nyahasha

          Food for thought there…

    2. Rodgers

      Ownership of what? Land, minerals, factories? It’s all well and good but it’s not enough. We need to own our information. The top 4 biggest companies in the world don’t need to own a single inch of any physical assets to be billion-dollar enterprises. ( https://www.statista.com/statistics/263264/top-companies-in-the-world-by-market-value/ )

      If anything, policies should make sure that we get as much FDI as possible, with one of the conditions being that investors bring knowledge with their money. Indigenisation should be about training workers to become bosses on their own merit.

      I’m not saying we can build the next Facebook, but if we can find a small corner like 0.1 percent of the IT market it will be beyond our wildest dreams.

      Prof JN Moyo had the idea right with the STEM initiative which focuses on key knowledge areas for a good economy. But unfortunately, like the author said, wishful thinking.

      1. Tinashe Nyahasha

        Implementation of the STEM initiative was too flawed to do any good though

      2. Anonymous

        Quite right but if things are taken out of the country to be developed there how are the locals gaining any new knowledge
        I think the ideas are there but govt lacks the appetite to develop those ideas fully so they become fruitful
        Esp now, I think if povo do not keep apart many bad deals will be signed so as to make it look like some activity is taking place . People need to informed about these deals what the country is giving away and what is being gained

        As this might turn out to be a short lived parliament, the country heads into elections it is wise for the sake of the common people, that not too many deals with esp shady countries are signed until proper scrutiny of those deals can be made
        This present new government should not become too desperate but act in the best interests of povo

        1. Tinashe Nyahasha

          Yes politicians are the most short sited people and you are quite right that they may sacrifice so much just to achieve a facade of stability going into elections. How to keep them in check…?

          1. Anonymous

            This is where the power of media come in ….
            You guys can reach millions in a matter of hours or less.
            Champion big causes, educate people
            Esp this season as the country is hungry for change
            When dealst are signed scrutinise and give the people information
            Media you have so much power
            Use it wellan educated electorate will vote well and bringa about true change
            At present there is very little outside of state media and we know what that is like

            An independent loud and bold and sincere knowledgeable voice is needed in the media
            Not to focus on side issues but on the real meat and bones

            This is needed like yesterday

            1. Tinashe Nyahasha

              Hope we can meet the challenge. We will do the best we can, you will be hearing much about what role we are playing as a group

              1. Anonymous


    3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      If you were given a mining concession, let alone a farm, do have the resources to get operations started? Most of us probably do not. Once you advocate for the locals who have the money to get the resources, you just foster the rich get richer scenario. There’s no difference to the common man at the end of day. A job for a local company or foreign company is still a job.

      1. Tinashe Nyahasha

        Yea. Real indigenization is when you make it increasingly possible for locals to get into business and succeeding without them taking from anyone. There is enough veduwe

      2. Anonymous

        But surely that land or mine is the resource, it is already worth something? The person who has the mine concession actually owns the wealth
        That is what they bring into the partnership
        The other person brings in the money and they should then go into business

        Why does the local person need to.put in the mine plus money, AND THE DEVELOPER PUT IN ONLY MONEY
        According to what you are saying the one who has the land or mine has nothing so cannot be equal partner in the business Why?

        1. Tinashe Nyahasha

          Had not thought of it that way. I suspect, you are the same person who commented above. Definitely gave me something to think about

        2. Sagitarr

          Very simple … land and mines are very abundant in the “3rd” World. FDI (what you calling money) is a risk that those with funds to invest have to “play with”. It can be a win or loss. Investment is a high risk enterprise especially when politicians are mixed up in “deals, corruption & tenders”. Depending on which side you’re on, everyone wants to win with very little or no seed capital expenditure. Zimbabwe explored most political systems under RGM – socialism, marxism, communism and capitalism (ESAP)…and failed. Is it too difficult to look at those countries which are successful today and implement what they did, hopefully in a shorter time? I think this is one reason why we go to school??? The UK for instance, is capitalist but has a lot of practical socialist positives in its implementation. They are better users of land per square metre than us for instance (although they stole our gold!!). It seems easier to have socialism once you have created the wealth (capitalism).

          1. Tinashe Nyahasha

            I have been studying the Chinese system. Quite interesting hybrid they have.
            The UAE case is more applicable perhaps. How to leverage the natural resources to build a robust service economy in a very short space of time. It just needs the vision to pick an area of focus and deliberately build there.
            Israel could be another useful case study. A desert that feeds the world and all through investment in technology

          2. Anonymous

            I think some of the policies thato were tried out like ESAP were mandated by IMF
            The govt had to implement ESAP to access funds from esap/world Bank
            This policy has not seen much success anywhere yet IMF still made it a condition Zim needed to implement
            And it was when esap was implemented in the mid_late 90s that the economy started to really feel the crunch that is when the exodus of talent from the country started thought this escalated circa 2000
            So I would still be wary of IMF as their policies are destructive to say the least
            I see their voice on Zim is getting loud again saying we need reform but what they suggested last time did not work but we were left with huge bills to pay

            This where local advisors to govt need to be frank and have alternatives that the guy should adopt IMF cannot lead on this

            1. Tinashe Nyahasha

              Agreed. Structural Adjustment programmes have never worked anywhere. They did damage to New Zealand when tried there. I don’t know though what policies IMF is now pushing.
              I do share your skepticism around IMF and World Bank but politicians are short term thinkers, that’s the downside to democracy

        3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

          Land or a mine, as a resource, is only worth something when/if you use it. There is plenty of arable land that is lying fallow, are they creating wealth? No. Owning a mining concession doesn’t create wealth, mining does. You can hold onto a mining concession for decades, but you’ll only make money from it the day you start mining. It is misguided to give resources to a local who is only going to seek someone else to rent it out to. You haven’t empowered that person, as when their “lodger” leaves they are back to square one. The government might as well rent it out directly and cut out any middlemen, whilst also reducing it’s tax dependency.

    4. Taona

      The law if implemented properly can be a success,its just been abused severely by Zanu that it now reeks of looting,corruption and get something for nothing. It just had to be thrown in the bin.
      It is the same as the land issue, a noble principle that was abused and turned into a looting conference.It is the execution and indiscipline that is killing real opportunity for Zimbabweans to pull themselves out of poverty.

  6. Rodgers

    For those who still want to hold on to their 51%, the economy has moved on from the ownership of land, mines, and factories to the ownership of time. Those who own the time are willing to share it for a price higher than 51% share, but whatever you make will also be way more than that measly 51%

    1. Anonymous

      Land , mines is where the raw resources come from
      Every one in this world eats
      Minerals have many uses and will continue to be needed
      Information technology is good but it can nnot replace food or need for resourceSpeed
      People can not eat virtual food or live in virtual houses so there is still great need for physical resources
      This why you see some first world countries are getting to point where so many car plants, shops
      Are closing , the local population is losing employment as it has become less profitable for things to be produced in their local country

      China has become the factory of the world when these countries have shut down their factories how are the peop let now without jobs going to be able to afford to buy goods
      Also what is the incentive for China to keep producing quality when they have a monopoly

      So no, the world has not moved on form mines or land because people continue to need food , shelter and other tangible products which the land and mines produce
      So don’t be quick to discount such great wealth

      1. Sagitarr

        Agreed…..great POTENTIAL wealth. The DRC has been in this POTENTIAL mode for almost 50 years!!!

        1. Anonymous

          It is truly sad that a country as rich as the DRC
          Can be in the state it is
          It is mostly greed and selfishness esp of leadership that the country is suffering
          But even now some very people are making money and enriching themselves

          I think when people get into power they consider te country’S resources their own personal resources to do with as they please
          Forgetting the masses
          The pexpletives really poor not because there is no market for the country’s resources but because of corruption which sometimes leads to wars being started by people tryang to hang on to power

  7. Evaristo

    some analysis are always going to be difficult to believe,cause some of these people have interests in the job.Isnt it a cause of that opposition should agree with their opponents even if they are right.Am just wondering

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Sometimes politics is just childish

  8. KR

    How is this even considered remotely technical “Tech”zim?

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Hi KR
      We have a position on this and this question keeps coming up. We will write an accessible article that explains this so we can link to it everytime this question comes back up.

      In short: Techzim writes about technology and business. The discourse on technology can never be in isolation to broader subjects like education, economics and business because technology feeds into these disciplines and is affected by these areas in a complex intertwined way.
      Stay tuned for a longer response…

  9. Always off Topic

    Biti is right, for recovery Zim needs to implement austerity. That is why it would have been a good idea to postpone the elections, and form a government of technocrats. So the focus will be on getting things done without worrying about political fallout. The cuts that the minister mentioned are not enough, he clearly is pandering to the ruling party’s support base, (many of those ghost workers are war vets ). They hold cushy jobs in government and parastals but do a lot of nothing. Right now the prospect of elections are an unnecessary destraction, and this is reflected in many of the policies introduced by the new government.

    1. Anonymous

      The economy actually needs to grow austerity will bring the economy down further
      Son much needs to be done every sector of the Zimbabwean economy has the capacity to grow a thousand fold the shortage of currency in the country is to some extent manufactured as some very few people took out huge sums out of the banking sector . Am watching to see how much will be returned by those given the amnesty that money can help the recovery somewhat

      That is if everyone who took something out returns even half of what they took

      1. Sagitarr

        This is crazy logic….that if you spend less the economy will NOT grow? When you work for a living what this writer is taking about is called hogwash to be polite. What is his definition of “the economy needs to grow”? Printing Zim dollars, dishing out land to illiterate people, having ministers who have never produced a business plan in their lives? assuming that those who “held the gun” have the most intelligent ideas out of this quagmire? Me thinks not!!

        1. Anonymous

          Growing the economy does not mean printing money or taking poor decisions
          Austerity in an economy like this is a very bad idea
          As already the economy is massively underperforming so further cus will cripple tthings further
          The zim economy needs to actually be productive, and find markets for its produce
          Makes good economic decisions like ensuring politics and corruption are kept out of business
          When people are given land the next thing is they should be taught and followed up on how they are using the land given to them

          Those that have been educated are already doing well and that needs to be encouraged
          Success is not automatically
          Very important resources have been given to some people who are not using them rightly but others have been successful
          But who has been actively monitoring these programmes they do not runderstand themselves
          The programmes are not bad but there should be accountability

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Postponing the elections would not be a good idea politically. What would we and the rest of the world be saying if Mnangagwa’s first order of business was to postpone elections? A GNU would have been a bad idea for the opposition too and for the pursuit of democracy: it would have just weakened them. As it is the opposition is on the back foot and struggling to be relevant

  10. Real

    I’ve read all the arguments and they come down to asking the right questions…as a doctor I thought the medical tourism to India was draining our money and skills but after a d little thought I actually came to the realization that it’s not the Indians it’s actually us zimbos who have a mentality problem… Why are we not attracting our own medical tourism… We have staff infrastructure that’s way better than the surrounding sadc countries bar SA… The reason we no longer care about quality… We think we can just dump things on people… The way patients are treated in India are like Kings… Can we say that about our own system…of course not and what’s the reason… There’s no competition… The council thinks that’s foreigners will take the consultants cake but they can make sure they do couple hours of training then can make sure their remittances are deposited to treasury… If they like this place they will settle… Invest themselves… So this thing if 51% in certain sectors does apply but should be done on case by case… Look at India they formed a partnership with Ashok Leyland…. Once the contract expired now is just Ashok. They have the skills now….. You have to give to get…

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I agree, medical tourism is low hanging fruit for us. Needs much investment in bringing the infrastructure to world class status. However, I was in Namibia two years ago and the people there were telling me they prefer Zim doctors to local ones: opportunity there

  11. Makatendeka Mufaro mmtembo

    The budget is good from an economist point of view not sure from a lawyer point of view.

    Mind you if you are using local currency and introduce USD automatically it rests inflation but that only is temporary we need real issues.

    Zimbabwe does have one of the best policies and our biggest problem is implementation.

    To me Biti you are offside let’s wait for implementation stage. That budget is good and even you would not have matched it.

    This is not about you but the nation

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      With political will the budget could achieve what it seeks to. Unlike ZIMASSERT, it is quite practical

  12. Anonymous

    Growing the economy does not mean printing money or taking poor decisions
    Austerity in an economy like this is a very bad idea
    As already the economy is massively underperforming so further cus will cripple tthings further
    The zim economy needs to actually be productive, and find markets for its produce
    Makes good economic decisions like ensuring politics and corruption are kept out of business
    When people are given land the next thing is they should be taught and followed up on how they are using the land given to them

    Those that have been educated are already doing well and that needs to be encouraged
    Success is not automatically
    Very important resources have been given to some people who are not using them rightly but others have been successful
    But who has been actively monitoring these programmes they do not runderstand themselves
    The programmes are not bad but there should be accountability

  13. Hope

    Do not be biased please. Let’s do elections 2018 and get rid of Zanu Pf.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      As media we do not support one party or the other. Our job is to call out what see needs calling out and affirming what we see as worth. Bias is what you have just said…

      1. Hope

        s/Zanu Pf/this illegitimate government/

  14. Dave

    By these admittions does chinamasa admit that the bond was a huge mistake? These speculative dealings in the market arising from mismatches of bank balances with hard currency were further fueled by the bond. I’m not in total agreement with this article coz as we agree that production is the main solution but the other elephant in the room is the bond note! Yes production needs to be boosted and yes we had serious cash shortages but the bond was never a solution and introducing it gave a false sense of relief and efforts were no longer focused on production. I’ve never been a fan of Chinamasa especially under this portfolio. The day we get someone who does not re rinse old, tried and failed measures am sorry will not be convinced

  15. Tinashe Nyahasha

    Yes the bond should go. Not sure about timing though. Using the USD makes us too attractive as a market though and that needs to be solved as local industry re-builds. It may be a good thing in that local businesses are automatically forced to think in global competitiveness terms.
    Economics can be too complex at times