Diamond money should finance polls

HARARE - Minister of Finance Tendai Biti has demanded that $130 million from diamond sales be channelled towards funding the referendum and elections expected next year.

Biti however, admits the money is still a pie in the sky given the murky mining and trading of
Marange diamonds.

The minister has set aside $50 million for the constitutional referendum and elections. The allocation still falls short of the $300 million required by elections management body Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec). Biti says diamond revenues should fill the funding gap.

Presenting the 2013 national budget proposals last week, Biti said $400 million expected from diamonds should be used to meet pressing national needs.

Biti said Cabinet had agreed that part of the diamond money be used to fund elections.

“At our Cabinet meeting on November 10, 2012, there was unanimity that the issue of remittances to the fiscus or lack thereof be given serious attention.

“It is important government, on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, transparently gets what is due to the fiscus.

“In this regard, Cabinet has resolved that Treasury must collect all overdue diamond revenue for government,” said Biti.

“On account of experiences to date whereby there is uncertainty and limited transparency on remittances to the fiscus, I am forced to identify projects whose funding will be dependent upon diamond revenues that should be duly remitted to the fiscus.

“The projects include referendum and elections which will receive $55 million and $75 million respectively,” said Biti.

“Other sectors to be covered by revenue from diamond sales include health delivery services $11 million, Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) $8 million, United World Tourism (UNWTO) general assembly $6  million,” said Biti.

Diamonds are also expected to fund road construction equipment ($50 million), water and sanitation facilities ($40 million), upgrading of state universities infrastructure ($20 million), irrigation rehabilitation and development ($20 million), on-lending to SMEs ($25 million), distressed and marginalised industries ($30 million) and housing ($20 million), said Biti.

Biti said failure by responsible authorities to ensure timeous remittances would affect critical services whose lifeline depends on diamonds money.

He said “regrettably”, as of last month, total dividends received by Treasury were a mere $41 million.

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