SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Education Minister Says Government Spending Priorities Misplaced

Education Minister David Coltart has strongly criticized the coalition government's spending, saying their priorities are completely misplaced.

The comments came after Coltart compared the total budget for his Education Ministry for 2012, which was $8 million, to the exorbitant $100 million recently spent on the military college. The funds to build this college came from a $98 million loan granted by China, in exchange for diamonds from Marange.

Coltart also pointed to the fact that $6 million is being spent on the construction of a new conference hall for ZANU PF in Gweru, which is to be completed by the beginning of December, in time for their annual convention.

It is believed that money being spent on these projects accounts for the diamond revenue that is not being submitted to the national coffers by the ZANU PF and the military elite who control the Marange diamond fields.

"It's not just the diamonds. This year so far we have imported something like $8.4 billion worth of goods. But we have only managed to raise customs duty of around, about $200 million, which indicates we are losing a vast amount of revenue at the border posts," Coltart explained.

He added: "It is very clear to many of us that because of corruption at the border posts, we are getting insufficient revenue coming into the system."

Minister Coltart explained that only 39 pence per child had been spent in the education sector, and this was unacceptable. He said more money needs to be channeled toward rehabilitating schools that have deteriorated.

Coltart also complained about government spending on foreign travel, which was exposed last year by the Finance Minister Tendai Biti. He also criticized the principals in government for spending too much on foreign travel, saying they had blown at least $20 million last year.

It appears government is determined to spend fortunes on unnecessary construction. The Minister for Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, recently confirmed plans by government to move the capital city from Harare to Mt. Hampden, in Robert Mugabe's rural home of Zvimba. A new parliament building is already being built at the site, with shopping malls and a posh residential area to follow.

Meanwhile, desperate civil continue to plead with government for a decent wage, as most are earning salaries below the poverty datum line. It is the ordinary Zimbabweans that continue to suffer while the few elite pursue lavish lifestyles.

$8 million on education, $20 million on foreign travel. Who in their right mind could think that was a good idea?

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