The government of Zimbabwe only has $217 in its public account after paying public workers last week, the country’s finance minister said.
Tendai Biti, the minister, told the BBC that he made that statement to point out that Zimbabwe cannot pay for elections, not that it was completely insolvent.
“You journalists are mischievous and malicious—the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn’t have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum,” he said.
“To dramatize the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217 … but even the following day we had $30 million in our account.”
Zimbabwe’s elections agency has said that it needs just over $100 million to finance polls this year, reported the Guardian.
“The government has no money for elections. … We will be approaching the international community to assist us in this regard, but it’s important that government should also do something,” Biti added.
The economy in Zimbabwe hit rock bottom around a decade ago, after longtime President Robert Mugabe seized white-owned farms, which prompted international sanctions, damaged investor confidence, damaged tourism, and caused other economic problems.
At one point, Zimbabwe’s inflation soared to 231,000,000 percent in mid-2008, before it went up to 89.7 sextillion percent [89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 percent] in November 2008. The country ultimately abandoned its national currency—which at one time included dollar bills ranging from 10 billion to 100 billion—and now uses the U.S. dollar and South African rand.
“There have been some assertions that the economy is getting better but as ordinary people we have not been seeing it,” McDonald Lewanika, head of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told the Guardian.
“Without foreign direct investment coming in and with some companies leaving because of uncertainty, I wonder where these assertions come from,” he said.
The United Nations previously said that Zimbabwe will need at least $131 million in food aid this year, as around 1.7 million people could go hungry.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.