Treasury rejects ministry’s $500b bid

Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Frederick Shava

TREASURY has rejected the request of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s ministry for nearly $500 billion to carry out various construction and renovation projects across its 21 missions around the world.

The government is desperately seeking re-engagement with the international community to help to clear the country’s ballooning debt now estimated at over US$20 billion.

It is hoped that the efforts would lead to debt forgiveness, restructuring, or clearance.

In a presentation by the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and international trade  chairperson Webster Shamu  it emerged that the Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion’s ministry proposed allocation to the Foreign Affairs ministry in the soon-to-be-presented 2024 budget allocation  fell way below expectations.

“Treasury allocated a resource envelope ceiling of $613 billion for the year 2024 against the ministry’s proposed budget of $1,139 trillion,” Shamu said at last week’s pre-budget consultations conducted by Parliament.

He said the capital requirement for the Foreign Affairs ministry would cater for construction, renovations and purchase of properties as well as vehicles, furniture, and office equipment.

“The ministry is faced with inadequate funds to carry out various construction and renovation projects across 21 out of the 52 missions of Zimbabwe,” Shamu said.

“$499.2 billion is needed to properly execute these construction and property acquisition projects.

“However, it has only been granted a budget allocation of $53.7 billion, accounting for merely 14% of its total requirement

“Despite this, the ministry is still committed to improving the perception and image of the country through various construction plans, major repairs, and facelift projects for chanceries, ambassadors’ residences, and officers’ houses…

“These goals will not be achievable without an increased budget allocation.”

The committee recommended that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube considers increasing the ministry’s budget allocation.

“So that it can meet at least 50% of its requirements,” Shamu said.

According to the committee, existing embassies are being maintained in a reactionary manner whereby the government only responds to crises as opposed to implementing timely maintenance measures.

The committee revealed that the residence for Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa’s residence in Pretoria was in a bad shape, which forced the envoy to use rented accommodation.

 “This scenario was also evident in the ambassador's residence in London. Similarly, our chanceries have not been spared from this neglect,” Shamu said.

He said Zimbabwe was also failing to build an embassy in Turkiye even after entering into a land swap deal with Ankara.

 “The government has successfully completed the land swap transaction, and thus, our mission in Turkiye plans to commence building the chancery in 2024,” Shamu said.

“After conducting a scoping mission in Turkiye, the ministry has determined that other countries are able to complete their missions in a year’s time,” Shamu said.

“However, limited financial resources resulting from the ministry's budget allocation of only 14% of its total project funding requirements for 2024 from Treasury, may hinder the project's progress.”

Treasury’s thin purse is mostly due to rising government debt, decreasing credit lines, political instability, corruption, inflation, and a weakening local currency that has lost over 700% of its value to date.

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