Zimbabwe needs supplementary budget for food: report

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Harare (dpa) - The Zimbabwean government will have to draft a supplementary budget to pay for food imports to feed 2.4 million of the country's 11.6 million people, the Herald daily reported Thursday.

Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa told parliament Wednesday that the country had not anticipated a drought this year, the Herald said.

"Government has so far set aside 100 billion (10 million U.S. dollars) to feed 2.4 million people in need of food aid," the paper said.

The government has said it needs to import almost all of the country's entire annual maize requirements of 1.8 million tonnes this year.

The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) says the number of people in need of food aid is likely to swell to at least four million before next March.

Zimbabwe's finance minister also admitted government plans to embark on a massive drive to build thousands of new houses over the next few years had not been budgeted for.

"Comrade Murerwa said the money for the reconstruction operation had not been budgeted for and this was going to be raised by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) through private companies," the Herald reported.

President Robert Mugabe's government says it will spend three trillion Zimbabwe dollars (325 million U.S.) on building houses following a campaign to demolish shacks that has left at least 300,000 million people homeless.

Doubts have been expressed over how the country's economy, already battling triple-digit inflation and chronic shortages of foreign currency, fuel and power, could afford such a massive programme.

But last week Mugabe told a U.N. envoy sent to investigate the effects of the shack demolitions that "We have to manage it somehow." dpa rt pb

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