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Sat Dec 20 04:13:28 CAT 2014

Zim has $217 in the bank

Sapa-AFP, Reuters | 31 January, 2013 00:01
Tendai Biti. File photo.

After paying its civil servants' salaries last week, the balance in the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government's public account stood at just $217, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has disclosed.

"Last week, when we paid civil servants, there was $217 [left] in government coffers," Biti told journalists in Harare on Tuesday, claiming some of the reporters had healthier bank balances than the state.

After more than a decade - during which the country suffered from hyperinflation of 231000000% and infrastructure that crumbled as quickly as prices went up - the situation is now at least stable.

But public finances remain a mess and local business battles against unreliable electricity supplies, lack of liquidity and high labour costs.

The government has warned that it does not have enough money to fund a constitutional referendum and elections that were expected this year.

Biti said that left the government no choice but to ask donors for cash.

The country's elections agency said it needs $104-million to organise the vote. The government's national budget for this year stands at $3.8-billion and the economy is projected to grow by 5%.

Zimbabwean police are investigating charges that five Zanu-PF officials fleeced two diamond mining companies out of $750000.

President Robert Mugabe ordered the police to investigate the officials last week.

They face expulsion from his party.

Political observers say the allegations against the five will be a litmus test for Mugabe and Zanu-PF, which is widely seen as turning a blind eye to the illegal wealth amassed by its political elite, especially in the Marange diamond fields.

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