China on Tuesday refuted a claim by Zimbabwe´s government that it only received $3.6 million in aid from Beijing this year, saying the actual figure was almost 40 times higher.
The Chinese remarks came after Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube listed bilateral aid figures while presenting Zimbabwe’s 2020 budget last week.
Ncube said China’s contribution was significantly lower than amounts Zimbabwe received from other international donors.
The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe responded by saying the $3.6 million (3.2 million euros) figure was “very different” from reality on the ground.
“According to our record, from January to September 2019, the actual bilateral support provided to Zimbabwe by China is $136.8 million,” an embassy statement said on Tuesday.
It asked the Zimbabwean government to “make comprehensive assessments on the statistics of bilateral supports” and “reflect its actual situation” when making budget statements.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner.
Beijing promised $60 billion in loans and aid to the continent at a major summit with African leaders last year — a pledge that came of top of another $60 billion made at a similar event in 2015.
The country has maintained strong diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980.
Under former president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe adopted a “Look East” policy after a fallout with the US and the EU over rights abuses and controversial land reforms.
Zimbabwe’s government said it had “noted the query” raised by the Chinese embassy.
“Necessary consultations are underway to establish a common accounting position,” tweeted the information ministry.
Ncube’s $3.6 million figure was pale compared to the $50 million he said Zimbabwe received from both Britain and the United States, the $41 million donated by the European Union and the $28 million received from Sweden.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been crippled by decades of mismanagement under Mugabe.
Galloping hyperinflation has wiped out savings and sent the cost of living soaring.
Unemployment is estimated at around 90 percent and even basic goods such as bread and fuel are hard to come by.
Ncube said the economy was expected to contract by 6.5% in 2019, with prospects of up to 3% recovery in 2020 — spurred by a better farming season and a marginal reduction in value-added tax.
China has been a major partner in most of Zimbabwe’s projects, including the building of a new parliament and a school of intelligence. AFP