WHILE the European Union (EU) is likely to lift Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement which it slapped on Zimbabwe in 2002 on November 1 this year, paving way for normalisation of diplomatic relations along with the opening up of avenues for direct aid, the EU will not give Harare direct budgetary support because of corruption in the public sector.
The EU council of ministers in February recommended that measures against the country be lifted unless there are serious violations of human rights and the breakdown of the rule of law. The lifting would enable Zimbabwe to benefit from the 11th European Development Fund which supports development programmes in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries. The fund runs from 2014 to 2020.
Zimbabwe is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A report released by the Afrobarometer in November last year ranked the country as the third most corrupt in Africa.
Institutionalised corruption will cost the country as EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia says direct budgetary support would only be restored when Zimbabwe puts in place adequate systems to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of public finances, including its procurement and tendering systems.
“At the moment, the way public funds are managed is not conducive for direct budgetary support. The systems are not in place, but we are happy to provide technical assistance in that regard,” Dell’Ariccia told the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
“We are also happy that the government is addressing some of the concerns and if the internal cleansing brings results and there is transparency, we may be able to assist.”
In recent weeks, the media has been awash with reports of brazen corruption and financial abuse largely in state-owned companies, government departments and local government.
Dell’Ariccia, however, said the EU and Zimbabwe had agreed to work together on health, governance and rural-based economic development, which he said would lessen the government’s financial burden.
He said despite Zimbabwe’s decision to snub the two-day fourth EU-Africa summit held this week, the EU would continue engaging the country and was keen to normalise relations. He said Zimbabwe’s decision would not affect the lifting of Article 96.
“There is a journey which started in 2010 aimed at normalising relations. We may have hiccups along the way, but the most important thing is to maintain the track.
For us we consider it (the decision by Zimbabwe to snub the EU-Africa summit) to be a lost opportunity,” said Dell’Ariccia.
Zimbabwe has been in the economic doldrums for over a decade and is in dire need of foreign direct investment and funding. Ongoing company closures, retrenchments and the liquidity crunch show the economy is now further deteriorating.