By Fungayi Chimbindi
In a bid to cut government expenditure, the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has proposed the reduction of the number of embassies and consulates in his 2019 national budget proposal presentation on Thursday in Harare.
There are currently 46 foreign missions and the proposal will see then reduced to 39 thereby going a long way in reducing annual spending.
He also noted that this move will see the avoidance of embarrassing incidents where some diplomats were evicted for non-payment of rent
“On the basis of previous consultations, it is proposed that the number of foreign service missions be reduced from 46 to 38, thereby optimising the utility value realised from the remaining missions as well as avoiding accumulation of arrears and embarrassing evictions of our diplomats,” he said.
Ncube said as much as Zimbabwe sought to improve international relations current expenditure on foreign mission services was far above the means of the budget.
“As much as we desire to implement and launch our re-engagement programme on all fronts, the capacity of our Budget demands some review to align support levels within means.
“The current diplomatic presence is imposing annual budgetary support levels of around $65 million, which is above available 2018 Budget capacity of $50 million,” he said.
Ncube said this discrepancy in spending had led to an accumulation of arrears which stood at approximately $17,3 million.
The finance minister said this rationalisation of foreign mission services would result in spending reductions of about $500 000 per month, yielding annual savings estimated at $6 million.
Ncube also said that diplomats “rental ceiling” should be reviewed downwards and based on the officials’ ranking and diplomatic residency.
Ncube also suggested purchasing existing properties or entering joint venture initiatives which prioritise properties with adequate space as a “medium to long term measure of reducing rental charges.”
Lately , employees at foreign missions were reported to be seeking menial jobs to eke a living since salaries were coming late.