dZimbabwe had only $217 left in its bank account last week after meeting payroll, the country’s finance minister announced on Tuesday.
"Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 [left] in government coffers," Finance Minister Tendai Biti told journalists in Harare, according to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. "The government finances are in a paralysis state at the present moment. We are failing to meet our targets."
With a referendum on a new constitution and an election coming up, "the government has no money for elections,” Biti said. “We will be approaching the international community to assist us in this regard, but it's important that government should also do something."
It’s estimated that organizing the polls will cost nearly $200 million, BBC News reported.
"The minister's statement is indicative of the very difficult situation in the country,” McDonald Lewanika, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told the Mail & Guardian. “It shows the economy really is in the intensive care unit. We have a very small formal economy so the space where minister Biti can raise resources is limited. And we should ask where certain revenues are going."
Biti is the secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a rival party to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, according to the Mail & Guardian.
Biti has accused the government’s Marange diamond mines, which generated $685 million in exports in 2012, of not sending all the proceeds to the Treasury, Reuters reported.
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In a follow-up interview on BBC’s Focus on Africa radio program Wednesday, however, Biti said the government of Zimbabwe was not insolvant, since $30 million of revenue had been paid into its account the day after its bank balance reached the college-student level.
"You journalists are mischievous and malicious — the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn't have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum," he told the BBC. "To dramatize the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217.”