Zimbabwe Finance Minister: 'We've Only Got 138.34 In The Bank'

Zimbabwe's finance minister has taken a hard look at the cash strapped country's bank accounts - and discovered it only has 138 and 34 pence left. Tendai Biti made the announcement at press conference yesterday declaring: 'Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 in government coffers.' Mr Biti went on to tell the shocked news reporters that they were individually likely to have healthier bank balances than the state's. 'The government finances are in paralysis state at the present moment', Mr Biti admitted. However, Mr Biti today contradicted his claims by saying that the poor state of the country's finances only lasted a day. Speaking to the BBC, he said the following day about $30m of revenue was paid into the government's accounts. Mr Biti claims he made the remarkable revelations to highlight that the government could not finance the constitutional referendum and election that are planned for sometime later this year. Speaking to the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme, he claimed his statement had been misreported. He said: 'You journalists are mischievous and malicious - the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn't have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum,' he said.'To dramatise the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217... but even the following day we had $30m in our account.' The stunning confession about the country's poor financial state is the culmination of years of ruinous economic policy by Zimbabwe's despotic President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980.A decade ago Mugabe, now aged 88, launched his deeply controversial policy of expropriating white-owned farmland and handing it to blacks. The policy, which saw 4,000 white farmers forcibly kicked off their land, was economically disastrous as in many cases the farms' new owners lacked the skills or inclination to run the farms properly. It also demolished investor confidence in the country, paralysed production, and prompted international sanctions. As a result, Zimbabwe - which was once the fertile 'bread basket' of southern Africa and possesses fantastic mineral wealth - is now one of the continent's poorest countries.