Mozambique: Opposition Deceives About the Budget

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The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday passed the second and final reading of the government's budget for 2017, with opposition deputies insisting that it prioritises defence and security to the detriment of agriculture, health and education.

The previous day Finance Minister Adriano Maleiane had explained that defence spending, as a percentage of the budget has been cut. This year defence and security accounted for 7.3 per cent of expenditure, but in the 2017 budget this has been reduced to 6.6 per cent.

Opposition deputies either ignored Maleiane altogether or, in extreme cases, accused him of lying. Thus Francisco Campira, of the rebel movement Renamo, claimed that the figures presented by Maleiane “are lies and the government is prioritizing defence”.

He read out a stream of figures which appeared to prove his case, showing that more money  is allocated to the defence ministry, the armed forces and other security sectors than to education or agriculture.

Campira's figures were accurate, but they only came from one part of the budget - he was quoting the budget for running costs allocated at central level. He completed ignored both the capital budget, and the eleven provincial budgets.

Expenditure on the defence ministry, the armed forces and SISE (State Security and Intelligence Service) is all centralized, but expenditure on education, health, agriculture and public works is largely decentralized to the provinces. Ignoring the provinces, as Campira did, gives a completely distorted picture of the budget.

“The budget for agriculture is less than the budget for the Presidential Guard”, fumed another Renamo deputy, Mohammed Yassin. And so it is - if you only look at the centrally allocated running costs budget. But the Presidential Guard (responsible for presidential security) does not exist in the provinces, which is where the great bulk of agricultural funding is allocated.

The true figures are 883.3 million meticais (12.2 million US dollars) for the Presidential Guard and 18.216 billion meticais (251.3 million dollars) for agriculture. Thus agriculture receives about 21 times as much as the Presidential Guard.

The myth about defence spending was also propagated by deputies of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). In the previous day's debate the MDM had steered clear of this Renamo claim, but on Friday they echoed Renamo. Fernando Bismarque claimed the budget prioritized “repression and militarization”, while Ezequiel Amarrane claimed that the social sectors “are marginalized in favour of war”.

There is nothing new about the Renamo claim that Mozambican budgets are dominated by defence and security expenditure. It is a claim Renamo has made in every budget debate, year after year, and successive governments have repeatedly refuted it. It is thus a safe bet that Renamo will make exactly the same claim in a year's time, when the 2018 budget comes up for debate.

The real percentage breakdown of the 2017 budget is as follows: Education - 23 per cent; Health - 10.1 per cent Roads - 8.5 per cent Water and Public Works - 7.7 per cent Mineral Resources and Energy - 1.4 per cent Agriculture and Rural Development - 8.7 per cent Judicial system - 1.5 per cent Transport and Communications - 4.3 per cent Social Welfare and Labour - 3.6 per cent Defence and Security - 6.6 per cent.

This Article has been cross-posted from: http://allafrica.com/stories/201612100126.html