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IMF team coming soon

Ngoni Chanakira

THE Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expected to soon send a delegation to Zimbabwe to scrutinise the country’s ongoing economic revival strategies and political mood in

what observers say is a bid to soothe tense relations.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the IMF and World Bank, both Bretton Woods institutions, have continued to sour ever since President Robert Mugabe introduced the fast-track land resettlement programme four years ago.

While President Mugabe contends that the land programme has benefited millions of landless peasants who had no access to land, the IMF describes it as “worrisome”.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono told businessdigest in an interview that the central bank was making efforts to get the relationship back on track despite the fact that “many hurdles still needed to be jumped and bridges crossed”.

Zimbabwe has been in continuous arrears to the IMF since February 2001.

As of end of May 2003, Zimbabwe’s arrears to the IMF amounted to SDR 164,9 million (US$233 million), or about 47% of its quota in the IMF.

Gono said the central bank was “definitely” seeking audience with the IMF, World Bank and all international donor organisations and had already begun repaying outstanding debts with money coming from the auction system.

He however scoffed at press reports stating that he had been summoned to Washington to defend his new Monetary Policy Statement released in December less than three weeks after he had taken office.

“Going to Washington is not on my agenda,” Gono said on Tuesday. “How do I pack my bags and go when my backyard is burning. No. Not as yet.”

The governor said there were many issues still to be solved before a trip was made to Washington.

Local politicians have been calling for Zimbabwe to abandon the IMF and World Bank and instead concentrate on countries in the Far East.

They contend that IMF and World Bank policies are outdated and have not benefited Zimbabwe.

Influential economic analysts including John Robertson, Eric Bloch and Tony Hawkins have however pointed out that the Bretton Woods institutions were needed to unlock foreign currency injections into the country’s struggling economy. They say other donors would follow suit because the IMF and World Bank had a lot of good will and were respected by donors.

Gono said when he crafted the Monetary Policy Statement he had consulted “widely and received input from the economists”.

“Eric Bloch gave me lots of material for the policy,” he said. “Tony Hawkins actually sent me material while on an overseas trip. I have piles of documents sent to me by virtually all sectors with some suggesting that we should engage the international community in our economic policy.”

Last week the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in its Restart economic blueprint said it would engage the IMF and World Bank when it “came to power”.

Gono said: “We need to solve a few issues before we can go to the IMF.”

On September 24 2001 Zimbabwe was declared ineligible to use IMF’s general resources and was removed from the list of countries eligible to use resources under the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

On June 13 2002 the executive board adopted a declaration of non-cooperation with respect to Zimbabwe and suspended all technical help to the country.

On September 11 2002 the executive board agreed to initiate the procedure to suspend Zimbabwe’s voting and related rights in the IMF.

The executive board on June 6 2003 then suspended Zimbabwe’s voting and related rights after having determined that the country had not sufficiently strengthened its cooperation with the IMF in areas of policy implementation and payments.

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