At one point last week, the African nation of Zimbabwe had just $217 left in its public coffers.
Welcome to the club, guys; I feel your pain.
The Atlantic eloquently summed up the country financial situation: “Zimbabwe, the country that’s home to some of the world’s largest plutonium and diamond reserves, literally has the same financial standing as a 14-year-old girl after a really good birthday party.”
Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti admitted that Tuesday when he said his nation had all but depleted its financial reserves after paying civil servants last Thursday.
By the following day, though, some $30 million of revenue had flowed in the country’s accounts, he told journalists in the capital city of Harare.
Biti has been struggling to balance the nation’s budget, which is hampered by a low tax base, an underperforming economy and public sector wages which take up 73 percent of the total budget, according to the publication New Zimbabwe (look for it at your newsstand).
“We’re in a challenging position, we’re a small economy and we’ve got huge things to be done …” Biti told the BBC.
The issue of Zimbabwe’s financial solvency came up because Biti was trying to stress that the government is unable to finance elections, which are scheduled for this year.
Zimbabwe needs nearly $200 million to pay for a referendum on a new constitution, as well as the election, according to the BBC.
Zimbabwe’s economy tanked at the turn of the millennium, after President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The move demolished investor confidence in the country, paralysed production, prompted international sanctions and scared off tourists,” the wire service added.
The country went through hyper-inflation that reached a staggering 231 million percent. Five years ago, prices were doubling by the day, and the government was printing $100 billion notes, according to The Atlantic. The following year, it took the plunge and began printing $100 trillion notes.
However, thanks in part to a power-sharing government set up in 2009, the situation has stabilized over the past couple of years.
Still, Zimbabwe officials have said they have no choice but to ask for donations to fund the elections.
“We will be approaching the international community,” Biti said.
(Above: Zimbabwe $50 million bills, printed before the country devalued its currency, although some would argue that was redundant.)