By Tendai Sahondo
Finance minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube was left with egg on his face earlier this week when the Chinese embassy claimed he had understated the assistance that the country received from Beijing by a yawning margin in his budget statement.
According the embassy, China provided support to Zimbabwe amounting to US$136.8mln and not the US$3.7mln claimed by government.
“The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Zimbabwe has taken note of the release of 2020 National Budget Statement by the Zimbabwean government. The Embassy appreciates the positive role the budget will play in promoting the policies and propagating the facts and figures related to the economic development of the country.
“In the meantime, the Embassy has noted that in the statement, among Development Partner Support (on Page 51) received by the Zimbabwean government through bilateral channels, the figure of bilateral support provided by China to Zimbabwe is 3,631,500 USD. This is very different from the actual situation on the ground.
“According to our record, from January to September 2019, the actual bilateral support provided to Zimbabwe by China is 136.8 million USD. 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,” read the damning statement issued by the embassy.
The Embassy called on government to make comprehensive assessments on the statistics of bilateral supports and accurately reflect its actual situation when formulating budget statements.
Meanwhile, Ncube dismissed the gaffe as a minor accounting mishap which he said has since been rectified.
“On the 19th of November 2019, the Chinese Embassy in Harare queried figures captured in the 2020 National Budget Statement. On the 20th of November 2019, officials from the Embassy of the People’s Republic and the Government of Zimbabwe held a cordial meeting.
“The two sides have reached an agreement on the facts and figures contained in the statement issued by the embassy on the 19th of November 2019 and the 2020 National Budget Statement. The two sides agreed to continue on a common accounting mechanism,” read the minister’s statement.
Ncube said government acknowledges support received from China on various projects that include the new parliament building, upgrading of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, Rehabilitation of Hwange 7 and 8, Cyclone Idai, Mahusekwa District Hospital, Food Aid and the Borehole drilling program.
“Further, the People’s Republic of China has provided the Republic of Zimbabwe with loans and grants for other projects. “The Government of Zimbabwe appreciates the support it continues to receive from its all-weather friend, the People’s Republic of China, and acknowledges the determination of China to develop closer cooperation with Zimbabwe,” added the Prof.