- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Though economic conditions have improved in Zimbabwe since the days of 231 million percent inflation, this week brought some pretty disturbing news:
After paying public workers’ salaries last week, the balance in cash-strapped Zimbabwe’s government public account stood at just $217, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Tuesday.
"Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 (left) in government coffers," Biti told journalists in the capital Harare, claiming some of them had healthier bank balances than the state.
"The government finances are in paralysis state at the present moment. We are failing to meet our targets."
It’s hard to think of a public servant than a less enviable job than Biti’s, but despite this week’s news, he deserves some credit for a pretty remarkable turnaround. The inflation that made the country world famous is now under control, thanks to his decision to abolish the country’s currency. And there’s been GDP growth every year since he came into office following a decade of contraction.
Nonetheless, the state’s cash flow problem is made more dire by the international sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s government — Biti is allied with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change — which may make it harder to borrow the funds need to keep the state operating. The constitutional referendum and elections scheduled for this year, which are estimated to cost at least $104 million, will also not help.