Mthuli in a tight spot as China disputes 2020 Budget figures

Harare – Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli finds himself in a catch-22 situation after the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe disputed the figures presented by the treasury chief in his 2020 National Budget Statement on bilateral support provided by China to Zimbabwe.

In the Budget Statement, Professor Ncube said that Zimbabwe received USD3.6 million through bilateral channels from China, a figure way less than what the Chinese claims.

“According to our record, from January to September 2019, the actual bilateral support to Zimbabwe by China is 136.8 million USD,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

“Such a figure does not include the other bilateral supports such as the expense of expert assistance, Embassy’s donations to local vulnerable groups and so on.”

China, over the years has been providing huge chunk of aid to Zimbabwe whilst it has also widened its investments in the country.

The discrepancy between the figures will likely further trigger loss of confidence towards government and its sincerity in championing a new path to genuine economic recovery.

Unsurprisingly, the development is already raising eyebrows with some questioning where the USD130 million has been channelled to.

Zimbabwe is currently going through the worst economic crisis in a decade, headlined by high exchange rates, foreign currency shortages, spiking inflation, and confidence deficit towards government’s policies among others.

China as well as South Africa have maintained a very close relationship with Zimbabwe over the years emerging among the country’s biggest investment and trade partners when the country has been facing isolation from the wider international world particularly Europe and America, with the then former and late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe led administration accused of gross human rights violations.

Mismanagement of funds and dishonest continuing under the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, will most likely threaten the future existence of such relationships.

Barely a month ago, local publication Zimbabwean Independent reported that Chinese financial institutions have indefinitely suspended funding three big infrastructural projects totalling US$1,324 billion after government raided and diverted US$10 million from an escrow account for the Robert Mugabe International Airport expansion project, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

“Official sources say the escrow account — where funds are held in trust while two or more parties complete a transaction — was raided for foreign currency, leaving the Chinese shocked about the breach of trust and confidentiality,” the publication said.

Despite preaching about reforms and re-engagement efforts, the wider international community has remained cautious on dealing with the current administration often accused of complacency to implement real and genuine political and economic reforms.

Equity Axis News

Raynold Mhotseka

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