Chaotic Zimbabwe has just $217 left in the bank

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After paying public sector salaries last week, the balance in Zimbabwe’s government public account stood at just $217 (about £138), finance minister Tendai Biti said yesterday.

“Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 [left] in government coffers,” Mr Biti said. “The government finances are in a parlous state.”

Zimbabwe’s economy went into free-fall at the turn of the millennium, after president Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms. The mineral-rich country is now using the US dollar and the South African rand instead of its own currency.

The government has warned it does not have enough money to fund a constitutional referendum and elections expected this year. The country’s elections agency said it requires $104 million to organise the vote.

Mr Biti said that left no choice but to ask donors for cash, saying: “We will be approaching the international community.”