Zimbabwe' s finances in state of paralysis, says minister

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 00:00

The Zimbabwean government’s precarious financial position was laid bare on Tuesday when finance minister Tendai Biti admitted the state’s public account stood at just $217 after civil servants were paid last week.

“The government finances are in a paralysis state at the present moment. We are failing to meet our targets,” he told reporters in the capital, Harare, before saying that some of the assembled journalists had more money in their bank accounts than the state.

Although Mr Biti has since admitted around $30 million in revenue has subsequently been lodged into government coffers, he said he made his comments to emphasise that the country was in no position to pay for a referendum and general election this year.

Earlier this month President Robert Mugabe and his political nemesis, Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, announced a breakthrough in relation to agreeing on the details of the country’s new constitution, a document they have haggled over for more than two years.

Powersharing

A new constitution must be adopted before general elections to end the powersharing arrangement between Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change can take place, under the terms of the deal both parties signed.

The powersharing government was set up in 2009 after disputed elections the year before that were marred by widespread violence. It also ended years of hyperinflation by ditching Zimbabwe’s local currency in favour of the US dollar, but the economy remains fragile.

The constitutional referendum is expected to take place before June and it will be swiftly followed by general elections, as both parties say powersharing no longer works due to ideological differences.