ZMBABWE – Foreign trips by President Robert Mugabe and his cabinet have gobbled more than US$33 million between January and September 2015 which is more than what has been spent in the same period by key ministries like Industry and Commerce.
The ministries are critical to the revival of the country’ economy ravaged by liquidity constraints, company closures and job losses.
Figures from the 2016 budget statement show that much more is being spent funding Mugabe’s foreign trips compared to what is allocated to economic ministries which should be spearheading the country’s economic revival efforts.
Actual figures of expenditure up to September 2015 outlined in the estimates of expenditure, referred to as the “Blue Book” by Chinamasa, show that Mugabe’s office spent US$33 270 491 on foreign trips, overshooting the budgeted US$27 446 000.
This does not take into account Mugabe’s trips to India, Turkey and most recently France.
This exceeds by almost three times the US$11 817 053 spent by the ministry of Industry and Commerce, a ministry that is expected to spearhead the revival of the manufacturing sector hard hit by low capacity utilisation, which now stands at 34,3%, company collapses and power cuts, during the same period.
Mugabe is known for globe-trotting even when the country is burning. This year, he made several trips to the Far East and within Africa, gobbling millions at a time Treasury is hard-up. Mugabe has among his jaunts been to Japan, Russia, United States, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa this year.
What Mugabe spent on foreign trips is nearly 10 times than what the ministry of Mines’ expenditure of US$3 487 584 up to September this year.
The money spent on trips abroad also exceeds that spent by the ministries of Small to Medium Enterprises, Tourism and Transport combined.
The President’s Office spent a total of US$156 621 766 for the first nine months of the year, of which US$10 563 414 was splurged on rentals and hire expenses.
Another US$47 281 627 was spent on goods and services with US$1 811 303 spent on maintenance.
Economist and MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South Eddie Cross said the amount of money spent on foreign travel by Mugabe’s office is disproportionate to meagre funds available which should be channelled to other critical obligations.
“The expenses on travel show an administration which completely cows to the President. Whatever funds the President demands, he gets no matter how much there is available,” Cross said.
He noted that the amount spent on trips is excessive considering how broke the government is as evidenced by their failure to adequately fund vital programmes such as the fight against corruption and the Basic Education Assistance Module, meant to fund the education of under-privileged children.
The failure by government to adequately fund Beam has resulted in thousands of children dropping out of school.
“There is need of a bit of belt tightening by the President but the question is who shall rein him in?” Cross said.