ZIMCODD’s latest weekly review brings us to speed on a number of pertinent issues including, devolution, freedom of expression and access to information. The review also touches on what the 2022 national budget must take into account. Read on for detailed insights!
The 2022 national budget should focus on poverty reduction
In the week under review, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) released poverty statistics for September 2021. The statistics revealed that the Food Poverty Line (FPL) per person per month stood at ZW$4,734.33 in September 2021, an uptick of 4.82% from ZW$4,516.52 realized in the preceding month (August 2021). According to ZimStat, the FPL measures the amount of money that an individual will require to afford the minimum required daily energy intake of 2,100 calories. Using the average household size of 6, a family needed to spend at least ZW$28,405.98 on food alone per month to be considered food secure. Further, statistics showed that the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) stood at ZW$6,653.65 per person, up from ZW$6,350.29 in August 2021. This means that an individual required that much to purchase both non-food and food items as of September 2021 in order not to be deemed poor. As a result, an average household of 6 now requires nearly ZW$40,000 to meet their monthly expenses (food and non-food essentials) up from ZW$37,165 recorded last month.
Unpacking devolution in Zimbabwe
Devolution resource allocation is critical to ensure the redistribution of centralized resources from Harare to ensure equitable development and long-term investment in the other Provinces. According to the 2022 Budget Strategy Paper, the Government intends to spend ZWL 26.7 billion1 towards devolution. By way of contrast the Bulawayo City Councils 2022 budget is projected at ZWL24.7 billion. This reflects either on unavailability of sufficient resoirces to implement devolution or Government’s unwillingness to implement the same. Thus, the projected 26.7 billion devolution funds is inadequate and will not do justice to the needs and demands of citizens especially given that there is already a huge backlog of infrastructure, facilities and general amenities. Zimbabwe has approximately 56 districts with two local authorities operating in each District either as Town Council or Rural Council. All these Districts are facing pressing needs which need urgent redress. The situation has been exacerbated by the unstable socio-politico- economic climate in Zimbabwe sustained by a pseudo stable currency exchange rate. Despite Government`s proclamation that devolution is one of its key priorities, the inequitable allocation and inefficient distribution of budget resources to devolved centers impedes against the same.
Freedom of expression and access to information
The gagging of critical voices calling for transparency and accountability or those criticizing the government has greatly affected digital rights in Zimbabwe. Efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation have a direct effect on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and information. In previous instances Government has previously suspended internet access and blocked access to social media platforms. This has happened most often during times of political turmoil such as protests and elections such as the January 2019 protests and the July 2020 protests, ahead of the much-anticipated July 31st march.
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