16 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Biti Hopeful of Securing Funds

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says he remains cautiously optimistic that he would secure funds for the referendum and elections scheduled to be held in the first half of this year.

The minister wrote to the United Nations Population Development Programme seeking assistance to fund the two critical national programmes.

He said the UNDP wrote back on February 8, 2013 expressing willingness to finance the two events, but pointed out that his ministry still needed to verify whether the submitted election budget was justifiable.

"We want to verify (the election budget) with the Zimbabwe Election Commission. We want to see if it's legitimate and credible," he said.

Speaking during an interview after addressing delegates attending the Committee of Sadc Exchanges meeting here on Thursday, Minister Biti admitted that funding the constitutional referendum and plebiscite would present a big challenge for Treasury.

"It is going to be difficult to fund the election from the budget because the budget has not been performing," said Minister Biti.

"The budget was already overburdened without referendum and election. The election and referendum have exacerbated the situation."

Nonetheless, Minister Biti said Treasury would have to secure the financial resources and had up to March this year to mobilise the funds.

He said Treasury was already stretched with budgetary obligations without including referendum and election obligations, which the Zimbabwe Election Commission says requires US$250 million.

"We are going to have a (constitutional) referendum possibly in the next two months, and possibly an election in July 2013," said Minister Biti.

"We hope that election will be a sustainable election and that the election would lead to a sustainable future (for Zimbabwe).

"Zimbabwe would hold an election that will be of major importance (to the country). What we want to see whether or not the country has graduated from predatory politics to inclusive virtuous politics, were everybody feels an important shareholder."

The draft constitution, the basis of the new constitution on which the country will hold the next election, has already sailed through Parliament without hitches and March 16 has been fixed as date for the national referendum.

Minister Biti hailed the draft constitution and said it was better than the South African constitution, which is considered to be the best in the world. He hailed the draft constitution for its provisions on the bill of human rights, gender, anti-corruption, period of executive terms and freedom of the media, among others.

"It is a document that can hold its head high against any in the world," he said.

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