, HARARE, Apr 15 – Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is appealing for help to fund crunch presidential 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,” Biti told parliament.
He said the country needed $132 million (100 million euro) for the elections which veteran President Robert Mugabe’s party wants held as early as June.
However Biti said 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.”
Biti said apart from appealing for funding through the UN, the government recently wrote to South Africa and Angola to ask for loans.
He said “all is not well” with Zimbabwe’s economy, battling to recover from a decade-long downturn marked by galloping inflation which at one point peaked at 231 million percent.
This has since stabilised and while the economy is growing, at five percent last year, public finances remain in disarray.
“We are already under pressure. We are being suffocated even before we include the elections of 2013,” 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. Tsvangirai’s camp has accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of pocketing diamond revenues.
“We essentially raped the economy for the referendum,” Biti said adding that the funds borrowed for the elections could have been lent to companies to increase production.
Zimbabwe is expected to hold elections later this year at the expiry of the power-sharing government formed four years ago by Mugabe and long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
There is no agreement yet on the date of the elections with Mugabe targeting elections before June 29, while Tsvangirai wants the elections later in the year to allow for reforms to ensure a fair vote.