Finance Minister Tendai Biti says the government has no money to conduct Zimbabwe’s referendum and general elections to be held next year.
Biti was speaking Friday at a press briefing held at his government complex offices on the performance of the economy.
The minister said the biggest funding challenge facing the government is how to pay for the two upcoming national events.
Biti said government cannot go it alone and called on the international community to help.
He also urged the principals in the inclusive government to pressure Mines Minister Obert Mpofu to ensure that diamond revenues from Marange field, Manicaland Province, reach government coffers.
Biti further spoke about government efforts to reduce its current account deficit with parastatals, noting that the government is spending more on imports than it is earning through exports.
He announced that government is working to conclude an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure Zimbabwe’s external debt, which he says can go forward after the IMF ended sanctions on technical assistance, the last hurdle to a restructuring, at its board meeting in October.
The minister said missions from the World Bank and the IMF are expected in Zimbabwe early next year to review the country’s progress.
Despite all the bad news, Biti said 2012 saw improvements in government finances from 2011 and expressed hope that a free and fair poll in 2013 would improve the social, economic and political situation in the country.
The finance minister’s words Friday clashed with what Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said last week, when the premier said that Zimbabwe’s coalition government is expected to raise at least 75 percent of the amount needed for the referendum and general polls.
According to the prime minister, treasury has already allocated the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) $50 million in the 2013 national budget for conducting the referendum and elections.
ZEC last Friday revised its referendum budget from $105 million to 85 million. Its election budget was also slashed from $115 to 107 million.
Given these conflicting statements, it remains unclear where the funding for the referendum and elections next year will come from.