Zimbabwe’s finance minister has revealed the extent of the country’s economic plight by announcing it has just £138 (€161) remaining in its bank account.
Tendai Biti made the extraordinary revelation at a press conference yesterday, admitting “the government finances are in paralysis state at the present moment”.
Mr Biti went on to tell shocked news reporters that they were likely to have healthier personal bank balances than the state had after it paid civil servant wages last week.
He confessed that the country’s finances had been driven into the ground by 32 years of ruinous economic policy by despotic president Robert Mugabe, adding that Zimbabwe’s finances are so poor that it no longer has enough money to organise a constitutional referendum and election planned for later this year.
A decade ago Mr Mugabe began a policy of expropriating white-owned farmland and handing it over to black farmers.
4,000 white farmers were forcibly removed from their land in a move that destroyed investor confidence in the country.
This in turn left Zimbabwe as one of Africa’s poorest countries, despite previously being known as the continent’s fertile “bread basket”.
Three out of four people in Zimbabwe live on less than £1 a day and over half of the work force is unemployed.
In the late 2000s, Zimbabwe began printing additional money in a desperate move to improve its finances, but this led to hyperinflation of 230 million per cent, rendering its currency worthless. Zimbabwe now uses US dollars.
Mr Mugabe is 88-years-old and is rumoured to have pancreatic cancer.
He has been president of Zimbabwe since it became independent from the UK in 1980, and refuses to accept blame for the country’s dire economic situation, instead blaming it on western economic sanctions imposed in protest at his autocratic rule.