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Economists Urge Zimbabwe Treasury to Block Funding for Foreign Junkets

Sources estimated that each time President Mugabe travels to Singapore for medical care accompanied by a large retinue aboard an Air Zimbabwe craft it costs the country around US$3 million

Zimbabwean economists agree with Finance Minister Tendai Biti's complaint that foreign junkets by government officials are unnecessarily draining the Treasury with a likely cost of US$50 million this year contributing to a projected deficit of some US$150 million.

They said Biti’s acknowledgment in his quarterly financial review this week that the trips are not productive and waste precious funding should be taken seriously by the Cabinet and the executive branch. President Robert Mugabe is estimated to have spent millions on foreign travel including trips to the Far East for medical care in Singapore.

Sources estimated that each trip to Singapore with a large retinue aboard an aircraft of state carrier Air Zimbabwe costs the country some US$3 million.

Mr. Mugabe, who is said to be under treatment for prostate cancer though his office has dismissed such reports as speculation. According to semi-official accounts he traveled to Singapore recently to visit his wife Grace, said to be under care there, then proceeding to the Rome summit of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Economist Eric Bloch said the government should divert funds set aside for foreign trips to the benefit of poor Zimbabweans. "These trips should be controlled through Cabinet and any trip that is not necessary should be canceled so that funds saved will be channeled towards programs for the disadvantaged," Bloch said.