Economists and social critics are warning that if Zimbabwe holds national elections next year it will have to sacrifice key social programs to reallocate the estimated US$200 million it will cost to hold the ballot.
They said the government is likely to have to divert resources from social service sectors like health and education to cover election costs, and the expense will also limit the state's ability to increase public sector worker salaries.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti recently acknowledged that holding elections will strain the budget, estimating that the cost of holding presidential and general elections in 2011 could run as high as US$200 million.
Economist Prosper Chitambara told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the government may have to tap revenues from the Marange diamond field and raise taxes to cover the significant cost of national elections.
Economic commentator Masimba Kuchera said the proposed elections will drain the treasury. “Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to hold even a by-election due to financial problems," Kuchera remarked.