The Mozambican government has admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the world economy are forcing amendments to the plan and budget for 2020.
The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) met in Maputo on Tuesday to consider the preliminary draft of the 2020 economic and social plan and the general lines to be observed in drawing up the state budget.
These documents are months late. Normally the plan and budget are approved and voted on by the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in December of the year prior to their implementation. But no Assembly sitting was held in late 2019 because of the general and provincial elections of 15 October.
Only now is the government preparing this year’s plan and budget, for the consideration of the newly elected Assembly, and the fast-moving international COVID-19 situation is forcing amendments.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimao Suaze said he could not provide macro-economic data, because the documents are still receiving contributions, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the eventual impact of the pandemic on Mozambique.
No cases of COVID-19 have yet been detected in Mozambique, said Suaze, but there were cases reported from South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland) and Tanzania. This situation, Suaze warned, could justify further government measures, in addition to those announced by President Filipe Nyusi on Saturday.
Those meetings included a ban on gatherings of more than 300 people, the cancellation of state visits abroad, and obligatory quarantine for 14 days for any traveller arriving from countries with significant COVID-19 outbreaks.
“The situation occurring internationally is altering macro-economic forecasts, even in first world countries”, said Suaze. “We are not an island in this question of coronavirus. We are integrated into the world economy, and so what happened this morning which we are not yet aware of, and what may happen tomorrow, will be determinant in altering, from one day to the next, some of our programmatic documents for governance”.
It was thus inevitable that the 2020 plan and budget “will reflect the macro-economic impact of the coronavirus”.
Were there to occur just one case of COVID-19 in the country, Suaze warned, that would be enough to alter the government’s plans.
In order to keep within the limit of 300 people for the next parliamentary sitting, scheduled to begin on 25 March, the Assembly spokesperson, Oriel Chemane, announced that the number of guests will be restricted.
The government will only be allowed to send five of its members to accompany the Prime Minister.
The heads of sovereign bodies (such as the President of the Supreme Court) may attend, as may the dean of the diplomatic corps, and three additional representatives of each of the three parliamentary political parties.
As for journalists, only the team of the publicly-owned Mozambique Television (TVM) will be allowed into the parliamentary chamber. TVM must offer its footage to the various private television stations.
Print and radio journalists can work from the sound-proofed rooms overlooking the chamber. The favouritism shown to TVM is bound to cause outrage, since this station is widely regarded as biased in favour of the ruling Frelimo party.
These restrictions may reduce the number of people inside the parliamentary chamber at any one time to less than 300, but they completely ignore the rest of the parliamentary building, including the lobby and canteens.