Gono: Zim must repay debt, reform economy

Zimbabwe’s central bank governor said the country must repay debts to multilateral institutions, restore donor relations and push through economic reforms to end a deep crisis, state media reported on Sunday.

Gideon Gono was quoted as saying Zimbabweans needed to work together to rescue the economy, the strongest signal yet that he is ready to cooperate with Finance Minister and senior MDC official Tendai Biti on the reforms needed to lure donors.

“A robust future has to emerge through deeper cooperation among us as Zimbabweans as we work in harmony with each other to steadfastly implement coherent and internally consistent sets of macroeconomic policies,” Gono told the Sunday Mail.

Some critics blame Gono, an ally of President Robert Mugabe, for many of the policies that have wrecked an economy that was once one of Africa’s strongest, and have doubted his commitment to reversing steps such as nationalising companies.

Zimbabwe’s economy is in virtual meltdown, with the world’s highest inflation rate and unemployment at about 90%.

Top priority
Revamping the economy and persuading sceptical foreign donors and investors to help is the top priority for a new unity government between Mugabe and his long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“We would also need to closely restore good financial relations with the Paris Club of lenders and all the other donors and financiers who we owe money,” Gono said, adding the country needed to repay debts to the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank.

The IMF suspended Zimbabwe’s voting rights in June 2003 as its economy deteriorated and the Mugabe government fell behind on debt repayment.

An IMF delegation is in Zimbabwe on its first visit in two years, a mission it has said is more about sounding out the direction of government policy than laying the groundwork for a financial rescue package.

A fund official said last week it could not disburse funding until Zimbabwe clears its arrears and demonstrates responsible economic policies.

Southern African finance ministers have called on the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank to help Zimbabwe recover from economic collapse, and South Africa’s foreign minister said on Sunday it was “important” the unity government worked.

“It’s also important that the Zimbabwean economy starts to turn around, not only for Zimbabwe but for South Africa,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told SAfm radio ahead of a ministerial meeting between the two neighbours in Zimbabwe on Monday.

Dlamini-Zuma will be joined by South Africa’s health, trade and industry, land and agriculture and home affairs ministers, and their Zimbabwean counterparts.

The IMF says it was owed $89-million at the end of February 2009. The World Bank says Harare owes it $600-million, and the African Development Bank says it was owed $429-million as of the end of June last year.

Gono said Zimbabwe also owed the Paris Club of sovereign creditors about $1,1-billion. - Reuters

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