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Zimbabwe FM Biti Proposes $2.25 Billion 2010 Budget, Sees 7% Real Growth

Finance Minister Biti proposes spending of $2.25 billion against anticipated revenues of $1.44 billion resulting in an $810 million deficit to be closed with help from donors and by drawing down an IMF credit line

Finance Minister Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe on Wednesday presented his budget for 2010 to Parliament, proposing spending of $2.25 billion against revenues of $1.44 billion for an $810 million deficit which will have to be filled by drawing down International Monetary Fund credits or through loans or grants.

Biti projected a 2010 economic expansion of 7% following GDP growth of 4.7% this year, with inflation next year of 5.1% after a negative 5.5% in 2009.

While proposing a sizeable budget deficit equal to 14.6% of GDP, Biti noted that he had received 2010 funding requests from ministries and government departments totaling around $12 billion, indicating the scale of need.

Biti described the country as "a sleeping giant in a deep hole," adding that, "We are slowly getting out of this hole." Zimbabwe's economy has been contracting for a decade and in late 2008 went into a near-terminal tailspin resulting in the collapse of nearly all essential public services including health care.

The unity government launched in February of this year as a compromise between the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai plus a smaller MDC grouping has stabilized the economy, but the recovery is still fragile.

The projected 2010 growth rate represented a scaling-down of expectations in comparison with the 12.5% rate anticipated recently by another minister.

For a view of the Biti budget from within Zimbabwe's national unity government, VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu turned to former finance minister Herbert Murerwa, now lands minister, who commended Biti on his budget.

Economist Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe said however that Biti will take some flak from the mining industry in particular, as he indicated that he intends to increase taxes on the sector, a key foreign exchange earner.