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PROGRESS achieved in the implementation of key capital projects in Matabeleland region would be under the spotlight this week as Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube readies to present the 2021 mid-term fiscal policy review statement this Thursday.

Driving towards inclusive growth — anchored on robust production and widening of the job market — are key ideals of the $421,6 billion National Budget for this year, which is being buttressed by tax relief measures to cushion workers and corporates.

Unlike in recent years where Matabeleland region had complained over marginalisation, the Second Republic, led by President Mnangagwa, has demonstrated intense commitment to transforming the region through speedy implementation of capital projects and unlocking new investment opportunities.

Despite progress disruption caused by Covid-19, several high-impact capital projects are already at different stages of implementation in the region with set deadlines in the short to medium-term. The Gwayi-Shangani Dam project, a long-term solution to Bulawayo’s water woes, has been made a top priority this year with Government allocating $4,5 billion towards its completion.

The project has three phases — the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, the construction of a pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo and another pipeline, which will draw water from the Zambezi River. The US$1,5 billion Hwange Power Station expansion project is almost 70 percent complete, according to latest updates, and would add 600MW to the national grid at least by end of 2022.

“We really look forward to the budget review to prioritise our key projects such as the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, which was allocated $350 million but not much work has been done this year. We hope the budget review will push some progress there including the Bulawayo Tsholotsho Road also,”

Matabeleland North Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo, said in an interview.

“We also have the Gwayi-Shangani Dam project, which is in progress and the President has directed that it has to be completed by the end of this year. The other critical project is the Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 expansion.

“We also expect the budget review to drive release of funding under devolution to support development projects in our local authorities. In Lupane we have the provincial hospital project and the Elitsheni Government Complex, which has been completed and needs to be connected to power.”

Matabeleland South Province also has outstanding projects such as the US$300 million Beitbridge Border Post upgrade, which has a huge impact of domestic and regional trading. The province is also home to numerous irrigation schemes, which the Government, working with the private sector, is working to resuscitate by upgrading requisite infrastructure to ensure adequate food production.

The projects also cover revitalising the livestock production sector to which the region has high comparative advantage, as well as sprucing up key road infrastructure such as the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Highway, among others to ensure smooth transportation.

Bulawayo residents await with keen interest the official opening of Ekusileni Hospital whose operationalisation is expected to enhance health service delivery, especially at a time when the country is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Other projects covering key infrastructure such as housing and health are also being rolled out in different parts of the region.

Economic expert, Mr Morris Mpala, said despite the Covid-19 dent, Treasury has succeeded in keeping inflationary pressures under check and maintaining macro-economic stability in general. The desire to adequately fund bumper harvest mopping collection and storage across the country, and Covid-19 mitigation, have not deterred Government from its focus on driving implementation of key projects in Matabeleland, he added.

“This is a mid-term budget review and the issue is to say let’s review progress and balance this with key fundamentals. Mthuli has been keen on developing water bodies and driving agriculture production,”

said Mr Mpala. The need to unlock venture capital and widen the GDP while giving investors assurance on join venture projects, should be the hallmark of the budget review, added Mr Mpala.

In line with the devolution mantra, the completion of these ongoing projects, experts say, would position Matabeleland to contribute more to national economic growth as espoused in the National Development Strategy (NDS 1: 2021-2025).

President Mnangagwa launched the NDS1 blueprint last year to lead the way towards Vision 2030, succeeding the short-term Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), which has scored major milestones. With the country now on a stable economic trajectory, riding on comprehensive business reforms, economic experts with concurrence from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have tipped Zimbabwe for solid economic growth this year.

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