ONE would have imagined that the chastising experiences of returning home empty-handed, after extending the begging bowl for financial assistance to fund the country’s economic recovery programme to our “all-weather” Chinese friends, would have taught Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa the value of frugality in conserving the little financial resources in government’s coffers.
HEBERT MOYO CANDID COMMENT
But, alas, the revelation that his ministry has obtained a US$1,4 million loan from a local bank to purchase luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles tells the story of a minister and government that still have skewed priorities despite hard evidence of more pressing socio-economic issues that require urgent redress.
The Finance ministry is set to purchase the vehicles after successfully negotiating a US$1,4 million loan from the African Banking Corporation of Zimbabwe (BancABC), according to a letter written by the bank to the ministry this month.
The ministry was offered the loan at an interest rate of 15,5% per annum and on condition they repay in “12 monthly instalments starting 30 days after disbursement”.
There is no doubt that ever since his appointment last year Chinamasa has been extremely busy, running from pillar to post in a desperate but futile quest to secure funding to address the myriad of economic challenges besetting the country.
Zimbabwe is in the clutches of an unrelenting crisis which Chinamasa knows only too well, with company closures throwing more than 400 workers onto the streets per week to swell the ranks of the unemployed now estimated at over 80%.
Service delivery remains poor or in cases non-existent, while schools and hospitals as well as other public facilities are severely underfunded. Civil servants’ salaries are also being delayed, with payslips mute on the exact payday.
To top it all, the Zanu PF government’s ZimAsset economic blueprint requires close to US$30 billion for implementation, but the international community has so far refused to avail funds because of the negative perception around Zimbabwe’s policies, particularly the indigenisation law which compels investors to cede 51% shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans.
But primitive accumulation continues on the part of government officials even on borrowed money. The ministry’s splashing out on cars comes in the wake of similar purchases for ministers and legislators running into millions of dollars despite the biting liquidity crunch that has seen the country desperately courting international financiers for assistance. In April, government splurged up to US$15 million on luxury cars for 355 legislators.
After three years, ministers and other government officials will be buying these vehicles at book value which, according to sources, is US$2 000. A real giveaway for such high-end cars.