US$25m Chinese medical project rescued

ZIMBABWE, which was on the verge of losing out on the construction of a US$25 million state-of-the- art national pharmaceutical warehouse bankrolled by the Chinese due to bureaucratic red tape and lack of cohesion in government, has rescued the project after agreeing that it be done at the original site in Harare.

By Owen Gagare

Beijing and Harare signed an agreement for the construction of the warehouse when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the country in December 2015, leading to the signing of agreements for 12 projects in key economic sectors.

Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng signed the pharmaceutical warehouse agreement with Health minister David Parirenyatwa .

Despite the availability of funds, the warehouse is yet to be constructed, largely because of the changing of goal posts by government officials.

An official at the Chinese embassy had told the Independent that as a result of the delay, the embassy was on the verge of returning the money to Treasury.

The agreement signed by the two countries stated that the warehouse would be constructed in Harare.

Some officials in the Health Ministry, however, later insisted that the warehouse be constructed in Bulawayo, resulting in a stalemate.

“By the time they wanted the warehouse to be moved to Harare, feasibility studies including the geological survey which included drilling up to 30 metres below the surface had been done. The designs had been done, so we told them that we had already spent money and time,” said the official.

“We had discussions several times and recently the government agreed to have the warehouse in Harare but at another location. This has been frustrating.”

The official said should the confusion persist after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to China, the funds would be returned to Beijing.

Sources close to the deal, however, revealed Parirenyatwa wrote to the Chinese embassy officials last week informing them that the project will be done at the initial site.

The letter was written just before Mnangagwa left for Beijing this week to seek economic and political support from China.

The Chinese had planned to discuss the pharmaceutical warehouse delay during the bilateral committee meetings during Mnangagwa’s visit.

Officials revealed the Chinese were pushing for the warehouse to be constructed, as they risked being punished by their government for failing to utilise resources allocated to them.

“There are serious consequences for failing to use your budget. The Chinese government can cut its budget allocation to the Harare embassy on the grounds that they have failed to utilse funds, which is often interpreted as a sign of incompetence. The money will then be allocated to embassies which are utilising their allocations,” said the official.

“This is the reason why, on our part, we have also been pushing for the government to use the money, but we cannot just be moving around.”

In China, Mnangagwa managed to secure infrastructure projects, which include the refurbishment of Hwange Power Station Units 7 and 8, as well as for the refurbishment of Robert Mugabe International Airport.

However, he failed to score the liquidity financial rescue package of US$1,5 billion, although talks involving the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, China Industrial and Commercial Bank, as well as China Import and Export Bank, are in progress.