IMF board to meet on Zim in February

Dumisani Ndlela


THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has moved to February next year a scheduled board meeting on Zimbabwe after finally securing a date for its mission to the country for routine Article 1V consultations.
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An IMF team is expected to arrive in the country on December 5 and wind up its consultations on December 16, top government officials told businessdigest yesterday.


Central bank and Finance ministry officials were already engaged in preliminary meetings ahead of the IMF team’s visit, preparing what one official said was “information for the team”.


The team’s report is expected to inform the IMF board’s decision on the country when it eventually meets in February after several adjournments due to the institution’s failure to agree on the visit with Zimbabwean authorities.


Sources indicated that the IMF finally broke the ice with the Harare administration following a visit by the IMF executive director for Africa, Peter Gakunu, who had sought a high-level meeting with President Robert Mugabe to discuss Zimbabwe’s “frosty relations” with the IMF.


Details of Gakunu’s meeting with Mugabe were not available from either the IMF or government, but there has been speculation that Gakunu’s brief had been to inform Mugabe of “the dire consequences” of frustrating the IMF’s efforts to conduct routine Article 1V consultations undertaken on every member of the institution.


Zimbabwe, which survived expulsion after paying up outstanding arrears in the IMF’s general resources account in February, is understood to have been adamant that its membership with the Bretton Woods institution was only nominal after the board failed to restore the country’s voting rights as well as rights to the IMF resources in a board meeting in March.


Businessdigest reported in July that government was planning to block an IMF Article IV consultation mission to Zimbabwe initially scheduled for September after failing to reclaim its full membership of the Bretton Woods institution.


The newspaper understands that Gakunu had hinted at problems Zimbabwe was likely to experience if it decided to cease its relationship with the IMF but sources said he had been persuasive in seeking a visit by the IMF team, expected to be headed by Sharmini Coorey.


Indications are that demands made in October by the Paris Club, an informal grouping of creditor governments from major industrialised countries, that Zimbabwe pay its outstanding arrears to creditor countries and restore relations with the IMF and the World Bank were a clear warning by creditor countries that they would deal with Zimbabwe’s debt situation in a more robust manner should the country decide to terminate its relationship with the IMF.


An IMF spokesperson confirmed that the Fund’s board meeting had been rescheduled to February after the IMF had finally secured a date for its mission but downplayed speculation that problems between Zimbabwe and the IMF had led to several deferments of the board meeting.


“There is nothing unusual about changes in board (re)scheduling,” the IMF spokesperson said, adding: “The IMF mission will be going to Zimbabwe in early December to conduct the annual Article IV discussions.”


A central bank official said: “The diary for the team’s visit is kept by the Minister of Finance but I can unofficially confirm to you that the team will arrive in the country on December 5 and end its mission on the 16th.”