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Officials Say Zimbabwe Exaggerated Capacity to Host 2013 U.N. Congress

Zimbabwe’s tourism ministry admitted before parliament Monday that the cash-strapped country exaggerated its capacity to host the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s annual congress next year.

Zimbabwe won the bid to co-host the global event with its northern neighbor, Zambia in Victoria Falls and Livingstone border towns in August.

The ministry’s permanent secretary Sylvester Maunganidze told a parliamentary committee on natural resources and tourism that Harare exaggerated its capabilities in order to win the prestigious bid.

Maunganidze said organizers are struggling to secure funding for key projects, adding that a $13 million convention center which government wanted to build ahead of the event had been shelved due to lack of funds.

His counterpart in the transport ministry, Munesushe Munodawafa, told the same committee they may be forced to build low-cost make-shift structures, as a result.

Zimbabwe is also complaining that constant reshuffling of top officials in Zambia’s tourism ministry has made it difficult to work smoothly.

More than 4,000 international delegates are expected to grace the event.

The country had expected to get at least $300 million from China, the African Development Bank and ministry of finance to see the project through. But sources in the ministry say no funds have been earmarked for the event.

Reached for comment, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi played down the funding crisis and promised to give VOA Studio 7 a comprehensive interview Wednesday.

A member of the tourism committee and Zanu PF lawmaker Kudakwashe Bhasikiti also dismissed the financial concerns.

But Victoria Falls Mayor Nkosilathi Jiyane, chairman of the UN congress organizing committee, expressed concern that government has not yet provided funding for infrastructural development.

His concerns were shared by Ilala Lodge manager Siphambaniso Moyo who said there’s no evidence of notable progress on the ground.

“We hope that the government will manage to get the funds which will lead to massive infrastructural development in Victoria Falls,” said Moyo.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Tendai Biti is expected Wednesday to present his mid-year budget review statement at a time the country is failing to meet projected revenues due liquidity constraints.

Economists said Biti is expected to present downward reviewed figures owing to accountability challenges in the selling of Marange diamonds and the general poor performance of the economy.

Public workers’ salaries gobble at least 70 percent of the nation’s $4 billion budget.

Though inflationary pressures remain at projected targets, Zimbabwe has failed to attract foreign direct investment as a result of political uncertainty and the lopsided black economic empowerment program being spearheaded by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, among other issues.