IMF mission in Zimbabwe, but has no promise of aid

An IMF delegation is visiting Zimbabwe to help improve relations with President Robert Mugabe’s government, but officials say the fund has not offered any aid to the country’s crumbling economy.

The Southern African country is in its eighth year of recession, marked by the world’s highest inflation and chronic shortages of fuel, food and foreign currency that critics blame on government mismanagement.

On Friday, state media reported the IMF executive director responsible for Zimbabwe and other African countries, Peter Gakunu, met Mugabe late on Thursday to discuss the country’s economic woes and strained relations with the fund.

”There was no talk about an immediate assistance programme,” a Zimbabwean official told Reuters, adding: ”Just what is in the newspaper.”

The IMF and other key Western donors, including the World Bank, suspended financial aid to Zimbabwe more than six years ago over policies including the seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to new black farmers.

Gakunu and his delegation were not available for comment on Friday, but the state-owned Herald quoted Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa as saying Mugabe had told the IMF team Zimbabwe was focusing on agriculture to revive the economy.

”Comrade Murerwa said comrade Mugabe told Mr Gakunu that Zimbabwe would also make use of its mining and tourism resources to improve economic performance,” the daily said.

Staying the course

The IMF executive director had encouraged Zimbabwe to achieve growth by using its own resources, it said.

”Mr Gakunu said countries should develop their own programmes especially when their relations with donors are frosty,” the Herald said.

It quoted Gakunu as saying: ”The suggestion is very clear, stay the course, make sure your priorities are properly funded.”

Gakunu said although Zimbabwe was complaining that the IMF had failed to resume lending after it repaid $193-million earlier this year to clear its arrears on the fund’s critical general resources account, ”that should not be an excuse for not dealing with macroeconomic problems,” the newspaper said.

The IMF has previously urged Mugabe to make comprehensive reforms to repair an economy many once saw as one of Africa’s most promising but now struggling with inflation of over 1 000%.

The IMF, which suspended Zimbabwe’s voting rights in the fund in 2003 for failure to service foreign debts, lifted expulsion threats early this year after the arrears payment.

Mugabe (82) and in power since independence from Britain 26 years ago, denies he has mismanaged the country, saying the economy has been sabotaged by domestic and foreign opponents of his land seizures. – Reuters

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