We will pay civil servants’ bonuses: Biti
HARARE – Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday flew out of the country heading for Australia as he battles to raise money for budgetary support and the emotive issue of civil servants bonuses.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, Biti declared that failure to pay bonuses to government employees was not an option.
“We have three priorities before the end of the year. The first is to finance civil servants’ bonuses and we are going to do that,” he said.
“I am not a pseudo-masochist. I am looking forward to a happy ending to this year. If we keep inflation figures down and the economic stability is maintained I will be a happy man and I have no intention of making myself unhappy by failing to pay bonuses, finance agriculture and the referendum,” Biti said.
In his state of the economy address earlier this week, Biti said government would need to work extra hard to raise cash to support the payment of bonuses.
“Government is under serious strain and as I said, we have adopted a three-pronged approach to raise funds. The first is local domestic revenues mobilisation, including diamond revenues. I have meetings scheduled with the President, the Prime Minister and minister of Mines.
“There have been exports of diamonds amounting to about $450 million. That means on the face of it, we are owed in excess of $250 million by diamond companies and we are going to demand our pound of flesh,” he said.
“We are also going to intensify our regional and international mobilisation of funds that is why you saw us sign that line of credit with Botswana.
“On the 21st of September I will be leading a high-powered delegation to South Africa where we are going to make a request of $100 million and as we speak I am on my way to Australia to seek funds for budget support,” said Biti.
Biti added he would be visiting Angola as Zimbabwe’s begging bowl transverses the region and beyond in search of the $400 million before year-end.
He said there was need for political willingness for government to harness and benefit from diamond revenues. In a thinly veiled challenge to Mines minister Obert Mpofu to put the interest of the
country before his party, Biti said Zimbabwe needed mature political leaders.
“We need political maturity and every political leader in Zimbabwe must know that the country’s resources need to benefit all citizens,” he said.
The issue of diamond revenues has threatened to collapse Zimbabwe’s coalition government with reports that money raised through diamond sales is not finding its way into the Consolidated Revenue Fund amid claims of military involvement in the murky diamond industry.
Biti has had to revise his $4 billion budget after projected $600 million inflows from the trade of the precious stones failed to bear fruit.
Mpofu argues he cannot disclose how much the country is earning from the sale of diamonds because it is a national security issue and tied to circumventing “sanctions” against the country’s political leadership.