World Bank Funded Ministers' Retreat

VICTORIA FALLS – PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office has defended the hosting of the three day cabinet retreat at a luxury resort at a time the majority of Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet saying the excursion was wholly financed by the World Bank.

Some critics have argued that the retreat, which came up with targets for the inclusive government could have been held at much cheaper venues and achieved the same results.

The delegates who were estimated at more than 150 stayed at the Elephant Hills resort, which charges US$ 120 a night.

Two flights were chartered for the delegation from Harare and others used commercial flights to travel from Harare and Bulawayo.

“I cannot say how much was spent on this retreat because we will only be able to do the reconciliations when we return to Harare,” said Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office.“But I can assure you that none of the money that was spent here came from treasury… the World Bank and other donors had made available these funds specifically for this event.”

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says the government needs more than US$ 2 billion in the next two weeks to pay civil servants and fund urgent government programmes. He has also made it clear that the government’s coffers are empty making it impossible for it to pay civil servants their salaries and buy drugs for hospitals.

The Victoria Falls retreat recommended that the inclusive government must priorities the normalisation of ties with the international community if it is to survive.

 Moyo said the retreat was worth the thousands of US$ spent on accommodation, food and travel expenses.

 “This exceeded our expectations,” Moyo said. “The ministers and heads of government departments were really talking issues not tissues. There was a spirit of cooperation and from here we can safely this inclusive government will work."

President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai addressed the retreat. Tsvangirai however left in a huff following a tragic event at his Harare residence where his two year old grandson drowned. He is due buried at the family home in Buhera on Monday.