Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is appealing for foreign help to fund presidential and parliamentary elections planned for later this year, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said on Monday.
“It’s self-evident that treasury does not have the capacity to fund elections,” Mr Biti told parliament.
He said the country needed $132 million for the elections, which veteran President Robert Mugabe’s party wants held as early as June.
However Mr Biti said the government would not borrow this money from local firms as it did for a March referendum on a new constitution, which paved the way for the polls to be held.
“This ministry of finance has no intention to emasculate the economy for this event, which will happen on one day. As far as we are concerned the international community must come to assist.”
Mr Biti said that, on top of an appeal for funding through the UN, the government recently wrote to South Africa and Angola to ask for loans for the elections.
South Africa’s cabinet has approved a $100 million loan for budgetary support following discussions in September last year, the minister said.
He admitted that “all is not well” with Zimbabwe’s economy, which is battling to recover from a decade-long downturn marked by galloping inflation which at one point peaked at 231 million per cent.
This has since stabilised with year-on-year inflation going down to 2.8 per cent in March, according to the national statistics agency.
While the economy is growing — at five per cent last year — public finances remain in disarray.
In March the government collected a total of $241 million in revenue against a target of $301 million. Exports since January stood at $689 million while imports for the same period totalled $1.7 billion.
“We are already under pressure. We are being suffocated even before we include the elections of 2013,” Minister Biti said.
He said the government received no revenue from diamond mines in January and February and only $5 million in March against a target of $15 million.
“If there was honesty from diamond revenue we would not be asking for money from anyone for the elections,” the minister said.
Long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s camp has accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of pocketing diamond revenues.
“We essentially raped the economy for the referendum,” Mr Biti said adding that the funds borrowed for the elections could have been lent to companies to increase production.
Some companies that had closed at the height of the economic woes reopened following the formation of the power-sharing government, but production has remained low.
Zimbabwe is expected to hold elections at the expiry of a power-sharing government formed four years ago by President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai.
There is no agreement yet on the date of the elections. Mr Mugabe wants them before June 29, while Mr Tsvangirai wants the elections later in the year to allow for reforms to ensure a fair vote.
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