Finance Minister Biti a 'punch bag', Says Prominent Labour Consultant

“Our Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, is a punch bag,” Makings said in Harare addressing business people gathered for the monthly Express Management meeting.

This meeting is sponsored by the British Council and is attended by prominent business people especially those that were trained in the United Kingdom (UK).

“He cannot do anything right now because his hands are tied. What he says and does is all controlled by the government which as you know is broke and so there is really nothing that he can do to solve the economic crisis. We really cannot blame Tendai Biti because he is just a punch bag in the government.”

The statement comes at a time when Zimbabwe is expecting a high level delegation from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the country.
The delegation is coming to Zimbabwe to investigate and try to find out the nation’s economic recovery progress.

“The IMF are coming next month (June) to see how we are faring,” Anthony Hawkins Head of the University of Zimbabwe’s Business School, said in an exclusive interview last month.

He said:”There is nothing really new about this but I think this time around they will ask where our diamond cash is going to and how it is being used.”

“As you probably know the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, has said we could earn about $600 million from diamonds but the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu, on the other hand, says this might not be the case and so this will have to be clarified to the delegation.”

Hawkins said he did not know whether Zimbabwe has paid anything yet to the IMF.

“I cannot comment on our repayment schedule because I have not heard about any repayments yet,” he said. “However, they will be worried about our diamond cash just like they were worried about the oil cash in Angola and how that was used before they could come in and help that country.”

Hawkins said as long as the country did not repay its outstanding debts, the IMF would not “budge a finger” to help the economic recovery programme.

Zimbabwe’s outstanding arrears to the IMF have now reached $140 million at a time when the country owes the Washington-based group $550 million, Biti, the Minister of Finance, has already confirmed.

He said Zimbabwe’s outstanding arrears under the Fund’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) now amount to $140 million.

The ECF replaced the Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

“Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to pay off the IMF’s arrears from its own resources,” Biti said in Harare.

“In this regard, the country will need to request cooperating partners for a concessional bridging loan or grant to settle arrears to the IMF.”

He said clearance of ECF arrears would unlock new financing arrangements from the IMF, within the context of a Fund supported financial arrangement, which would then be used to repay the bridging loan obtained from the cooperating partners.

“Zimbabwe will, however, need a track record of implementing sound macro-economic policies and assurances that arrears to other official creditors are programmed to be cleared,” Biti said.

Biti has already confirmed that Zimbabwe owes multilateral institutions a grand total of $2,504 billion, of which the World Bank is owed $1,126 billion, the IMF, $550 million, the African Development Bank (AfDB) $529 million, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), $221 million.

President Robert Mugabe has said there is an urgent need for Zimbabwe to achieve external debt sustainability through a comprehensive debt relief and arrears clearance programme.

“This must be strongly supported by my government and all the development partners and creditors,” President Mugabe said.

Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has also said it is “clear that Zimbabwe cannot rehabilitate its infrastructure and move forward with its socio-economic transformation reforms if the debt overhang challenge is not urgently resolved”.