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Defiant Zim launches drive to revive economy

ZIMBABWE on Wednesday launched a new drive to revive its ailing economy, saying it would do away with past obstacles to growth, but vowed to press on with policies that have repelled key donors.

The country is in the throes of a

deepening economic crisis that has been worsened by the withdrawal of international support mainly over its forcible redistribution of white-owned commercial farms among blacks.

The meltdown has been revealed in chronic shortages of food, foreign exchange and fuel, surging unemployment and the world’s highest rate of inflation at 913,6%.

Critics say political interference, including failure to prosecute ruling party supporters implicated in disruptions to agriculture linked to the land reforms, have undermined efforts to reverse the crisis.

“Previously we have been very good at crafting turnaround programmes that have fallen short at the implementation stage. This time around the programmes we have got are action-oriented,” central bank governor Gideon Gono told a news briefing also addressed by government ministers and business leaders.

“We also have commitment to do away with the bureaucracy that has stifled (us) before. Where the issue is delivery versus bureaucracy, bureaucracy must give way.”

Economic Development minister, Rugare Gumbo said the drive was aimed at “restoring the positive image of the country” by, among others, seeking to boost investor confidence and cut government debt. The plan will be overseen by a council headed by President Robert Mugabe. But Gumbo also struck a defiant note over Zimbabwe’s strained relations with the international community, saying: “We are not apologetic about what we are doing in Zimbabwe.”

Mugabe has clashed with the West not only over his controversial land reforms, but also over charges that his ruling Zanu PF party has rigged key elections since 2000 and violated human rights. The veteran leader, in power since Independence from Britain in 1980, denies the charges.

In a move likely to further rattle investors, Mugabe this week backed government plans to assume 51% control of all foreign-owned mines.

But an optimistic Mugabe told supporters at a rally on Tuesday to commemorate 26 years of Independence that the country was on course for recovery and would register positive economic growth for the first time in eight years.

Gono said on Wednesday the revival initiative would also trigger inflows of US$2,5 billion “either in cash or in the form of investments” within the next 90-days.

But analysts have been sceptical about Zimbabwe’s prospects and say the economy — which has shrunk by 40% since 1999 — is likely to see another contraction in 2006. — Reuter

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