30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Zim's Foreign Missions Sing the Blues

The country's foreign missions are saddled with debts and, in some cases diplomats are being forced to reside in houses not fit for human habitation.

Inadequate funding has also affected the initiative to re-engage international financial institutions that terminated funding to Zimbabwe or normalise relationships with the international community, especially Western countries that have imposed targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his close associates.

A recent report by the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee said the country's embassies may be brought to their knees this year due to funding problems.

As of September 2012, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had only received about US$26 million, which is four percent of the total 2012 vote.

During the same period, diplomatic arrears stood at about US$4 million, representing 6, 8 percent of the 2012 national budget.

"If carried forward, this will chew away 6, 2 percent of the 2013 budget, creating another hole which will be difficult to fill," reads part of the report.

"The major challenge for the ministry is that of properties abroad. Most of them are rented and the rentals are exorbitant and unsustainable in the long-term. Thus, as a long-term cost cutting measure Zimbabwe needs to continue acquiring

properties rather than renting. The other issue is that of maintenance of properties. The ministry highlighted that some of the properties are inhabitable especially the residence in New York."

The Committee recommended that vehicles should be replaced at most missions while residences should be renovated to portray a good image of the country.

The Committee strongly feels that the disbursement of funds should be expedited and all arrears should be cleared.

The Regional Integration and International Cooperation Ministry was also said to be equally in dire straits.

It is also saddled with debts, part of which is for car rentals due to the Central Mechanical Equip-ment Department amounting to US$52 000.

The ministry's ability to host high level meetings would also be affected as it was only allocated US$6 000 from the requested US$100 000 to meet costs towards accommodation, meals and conferencing, among others.

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