Diplomats face the chop

biti_budget_roundupHARARE Zimbabwe is recalling some of its diplomats posted abroad as part of austerity measures aimed at containing spiralling costs of running the countrys bloated foreign missions, Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced last week. (Pictured: Finance Minister Tend

Biti said the current level of expenditure on Zimbabwes foreign missions was unsustainable and bold and decisive decisions need to be made and taken to contain expenditures in this area. The countrys embassies are chewing US$4 million from the Treasury every month, before payment of arrears accumulated over the past few years.

Biti said the government allocated US$21.7 million to the embassies for operations and clearance of arrears during the first 10 months of 2010. Outside arrears, the monthly obligation to Foreign Missions is US$4 million, which is 2.7 percent of our expenditures, Biti told Parliament during the presentation of the 2011 national budget statement last Thursday. The monthly cost of running missions is US$5 million, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently getting US$4 million. Zimbabwe has 43 diplomatic missions around the world which have accumulated arrears amounting to US$30 million.

Pursuant to this, cost cutting measures, including recall of officers whose term of duty has expired, are being instituted in order to contain further accumulation of arrears at our foreign missions, Biti said. He also blasted government ministers and officials for excessive foreign travel, telling Parliament that trips abroad remained unsustainably high relative to other critical services. To October 2010, foreign travel expenditures amounted to US$29.2 million, against an original budgetary provision of US$24.2 million, representing three percent of total recurrent expenditure of US$1.2 billion for the period to October. President Robert Mugabe is one of the culprits with regards to foreign travel, often taking along with him bloated delegations whenever he goes abroad.

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