A TEAM of Chinese experts is due to jet into Zimbabwe next month to conduct feasibility studies which will establish whether the deals — largely described as pie in the sky — signed by the two countries during President Robert Mugabe’s state visit to the Asian economic giant at the end of August can go ahead.
A desperate Zimbabwe which has unsuccessfully sought US$27 billion to implement its ZimAsset economic blueprint and lately US$4 billion in budgetary support recently signed a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the Chinese for the implementation of infrastructural projects in various sectors of the economy including power generation, water, telecommunications and mining.
However, most of the projects are yet to take off amid indications the Chinese are concerned over revenue leakages in parastatals and line ministries that will oversee their implementation, should feasibility studies be favourable.
It is for this reason, according to government sources, that the Chinese will despatch officials next month to Harare not only to conduct feasibility studies but also to come up with measures to ensure that all the funds dedicated to the projects will not be diverted to other uses by the state enterprises and ministries.
“The Chinese experts are coming in November to conduct feasibility studies ahead of project implementation,” said a source. “But they are worried why a country as small as Zimbabwe continues to experience revenue leaks that often result in funds and other resources for projects being diverted. Consequently, the experts will also work with government to find ways to plug the revenue leaks.”
Despite the hype on how the deals will quickly transform the country’s economic fortunes, the need to first conduct feasibility studies is an indication that it would take a long time before the projects can be implemented, if at all.
An official who accompanied Mugabe to Beijing in August told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that upon their return the Chinese were sceptical about Zimbabwe’s economic path and were thus behind the scenes gravely concerned about a number of issues, including the country’s low credit rating and political risk. The Chinese were also worried, the official said, about Mugabe’s age and instability within the ruling Zanu PF, factors which contribute to complications that businesses and government may face as a result of political changes that could destabilise the country and operating environment.
The official also said it was too early to celebrate as authorities did as they had only signed MOUs, and funds would be released only when the projects are found to be viable after the feasibility studies.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who played a critical role in negotiating with the Chinese deals, told parliament on September 3 that the Chinese would only fund bankable projects.
“What we have been able to achieve was serious engagement with the Chinese authorities. We got a commitment from the highest authority to fund bankable and viable projects,” said Chinamasa.
“China does not give budgetary support to any country. It is interested in giving infrastructural support. We came back with commitment that they are prepared to fund bankable projects.”
Efforts to get comment from Chinese ambassador Lin Lin were not successful as he had not responded to email questions at the time of going to print.