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World Bank boss ruffles feathers

Ngoni Chanakira

WORLD Bank executive director Louis Kasekende on Wednesday night threw diplomacy to the wind and ruffled feathers when he gave a damning analysis about the country’s econ

omic and political situation at a VIP dinner.

While he did not specifically refer to Zimbabwe, Kasekende used Uganda as a model, describing it as an example of an economy that went from total ruin to economic recovery – something he said could be “done by any other African country”.

The remarks were seemingly taken by some government officials to refer to Zimbabwe.

The VIP dinner was attended by the Minister of Finance and Economic Devel-opment Herbert Mu-rerwa, Minister of Energy and Power Development Amos Midzi, incoming Re-serve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Antony Mandiwanza and National Economic Consultative Forum executive secretary Nicholas Katikiti.

Kasekende is executive director of the World Bank responsible for Africa’s Region I, which covers English-speaking countries including Zimbabwe.

He is a former Reserve Bank of Uganda governor, having spent 16 years in the system.

Kasekende was on a three-day fact-finding tour of southern African countries under the auspices of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) – a donor agency.

“You should not make it a habit to make mistakes all the time and then blame others,” he said. “We did it in Uganda and we did not go anywhere. In fact, there came a time when after the introduction of price controls in the country the Reserve Bank no longer had any role to play. Everything was now being conducted on the parallel market.”

He said politicians should leave business for businessmen and concentrate on politics because they “have no business in business”.

“Development does not speak English or French,” he said. “Development is meant to strengthen the economy. Politicians will always develop something that only benefits them so you have to be very careful about them.”

Questioned after the presentation whether he was referring to Zimbabwe, Kasekende said he used this example whenever he gave advice – whether it be to government or business. Asked by businessdigest whether tension between the World Bank and Zimbabwe had thawed, Kasekende said:

“The situation as far as the World Bank and Zimbabwe are concerned has not changed. In fact it remains the same.”

Zimbabwe and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have fallen out since the country’s economic and political situation began deteriorating about two years ago.

In an interview Murerwa said while he welcomed the advice given by the World Bank boss he thought Zimbabwe would “get out of the current challenges sooner rather than later”.

“Look, we have done so many things during the last weeks to try and improve our situation,” he said. “We now have a substantive RBZ governor. We have held fruitful discussions at the NECF and I think we are on track.”

Gono in an interview said it was now time to sweep Zimbabwe clean.

“It is going to be a very tough task for all of us but we just have to sweep the place clean,” he said.

Kasekende was scheduled to meet all the ministers dealing with finance and land before departing to brief Washington on his findings.

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