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12 Oct 2009 11:07
Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti vowed on Monday that he would quit if he is asked to return the local dollar which was abandoned as the country fought a losing battle with hyperinflation.
“If someone is to ask me bring back the Zimbabwe dollar, then there will be a vacancy on the sixth floor of the government complex and I will go back to my law firm,” Biti was quoted as saying by the state-owned Herald newspaper.
“The Zimbabwe dollar has been an instrument of arbitrage and rent-seeking behaviour. It had become an instrument of theft so we can’t allow that.”
He said debate on the possible return of the Zimbabwe dollar should only start in November next year.
Biti, a lawyer, was appointed finance minister in February in a power-sharing government of the country’s three major political parties - long-ruling President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a breakaway faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara.
The compromise government sought to ease political tensions in the wake of a contentious presidential run-off election and to mend the country’s economy which was on its knees after taking years of battering.
When it took office the new government abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar and adopted multiple foreign currencies as a measure to curb galloping inflation which forced thrice-daily price increases in some cases, rendering the local currency unusable.
The move saw shops which resembled empty sheds restocking although the foreign currency was hard to come by for the average citizen.
Mugabe hinted that he would ask Biti to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar, saying the majority of the people had no access to foreign currency.
Biti said he was reluctant to join the inclusive government.
“I took this job because Mr Tsvangirai asked me to do it,” the Herald quoted him as saying.
“As you know, I didn’t want to be part of this government but after the [MDC] party’s national council resolved that we should go in, I had no option.”—AFP
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