Biti to curb Robert Mugabe's trips abroad

Harare, – Zimbabwe government spent more than US$28 million on foreign travels this year, enough to pay one third of the country’s civil servants one month’s salary, Minister of Finance Tendai Biti has revealed.

Presenting his US$2.250 billion 2010 National Budget to Parliament, Biti said he had structured the Budget to underpin reconstruction of the economy, battered by years of plunder and policy somersaults, through equitable growth and stability.  Therefore treasury would no longer provide money to Ministers and top officials travelling abroad.

“The disproportionate share of foreign travel amounting to US$28.6 million to October 2009 is a detriment to overall service delivery,” said Biti.“Therefore with effect from January 2010, business travel for individual Ministries will have to be managed within the voted amount and the monthly allocations availed for this purpose.

This means a shift from the current scenario where by treasury has been managing the resource envelope for foreign travel.”

As part of measures to increase public spending, the Minister reduced taxes for worker, with the tax-free threshold now pegged at $160. He introduced a bonus tax-free threshold of US$400 with effect from November.

To ensure business returned to viability, corporate tax has been reduced to 25 percent from 30 percent with effect from next January. Biti reduced transaction levies on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) to 3.21 percent from 7.5 percent.

The budget expects economic growth of 4.7 percent in 2009 up from a projection of 3.7 percent, compared to negative 10 percent in 2008, underpinned by improved performance in agriculture- 10 percent in 2009 following registered sustained cumulative declines of 85.7 percent since 2002.

Zimbabweans importing vehicles would be paying less in duty. With effect from 1 January next year, import duty for half tonne pick up trucks will drop to 25 percent from 40 percent. Vehicles with an engine capacity below 1 500cc will also attract duty of 25 percent, down from 40 percent, a reprieve in a country where the car industry is still struggling to start off.

Mining is expected to grow by 2 percent this year compared to a decline of -22.1 percent in 2008, and by 40 percent in 2010 while manufacturing is expected to grow by eight percent in 2009, following cumulative decline of -91.1 percent.