The Zimbabwe government under President Robert Mugabe has embarked on a borrowing and spending spree ahead of Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
By Tony Hawkins in Harare
In the six weeks to March 7, government debt increased 65-fold from Z$25,000bn to Z$1,600,000bn (£26bn, US$53bn, €34bn), according to official figures.
While the increase in government expenditure is exaggerated by inflation, running at a rate of at least 150 per cent a month, the surge in borrowing – more than half of it by overdraft from the central bank – can be considered a direct measure of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s desperation to secure Mr Mugabe’s re-election.
Central bank officials say that Z$166,000bn was spent to increase salaries of public servants, especially teachers and security force personnel.
Another Z$500,000bn went on buying farm equipment, according to central bank officials. There have been reports that Zanu-PF is also distributing industrial and commercial machinery.
The spending is intended to counter what opposition parties say is a big swing against Mr Mugabe in the countryside, traditionally the bedrock of his support.
Election observers from the Southern African Development Community have rejected suggestions that the electoral process is unfair.