News Column

'Pension Fund Assets to Finance Projects'

April 30, 2014



GOVERNMENT intends to tap into pension fund assets as a potential source of financing infrastructural projects, particularly for the energy sector, a senior official said.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Government was considering coming up with a financial instrument to mobilise "investable" funds from retirement savings as well as from the National Social Security Authority.

"I am primarily looking at investing (the pension funds) in small hydro power schemes so that we boost the energy sector and enhance productivity in the economy," he said without giving further details.

Minister Chinamasa was addressing about 400 delegates at the International Business Conference held concurrently with the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe is unable to borrow from multi lateral institutions, the traditional financiers of infrastructural projects, due to a huge debt overhang standing at about $7 billion.

As such, the Government cannot make capital investments of that sort that would normally help spurring economic development and growth.

The world over, pension funds are increasingly playing an important role in the national economy and if properly invested, they provide a mechanism for stimulating economic development.

In addition, pension funds across the globe are also increasingly looking at infrastructure investment with some investors actively pursuing opportunities in the sector.

While Minister Chinamasa was not specific on the financial instrument, analysts said Government could look at how pension funds could invest in Government bonds.

"Infrastructural projects are long term and the tenure should be long term as well," economist Mr Witness Chinyama said. "So the Government may come up with a bond."

Zimbabwe, under the coalition Government once planned to float a $100 million bond for infrastructure rehabilitation in light of the constraints of accessing long-term credit.

Zimbabwe needs as much as $18 billion to rehabilitate infrastructure and make the country more attractive to investments, according to United Nations Development Programme.

Minister Chinamasa said the country has failed to obtain funding on international markets due to concerns about its huge debt overhang. Sometimes, he said, he gets "humiliated" because everywhere he has sought funding; the debt issue has cropped up.

"We are confronted with an economy which is heavily indebted, that is a reality I am facing, whether it is China or Malawi or the Bretton Wood Institutions," said Minister Chinamasa.


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Source: AllAfrica


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