INTERNATIONAL donors are ready to help Zimbabweâ€™s ailing economy recover as soon as the government proves it is committed to economic and social change, a World Bank official said on Wednesday.
â€œZimbabwe is in a bad situation and the reality is that many donors are ready to assist Zimbabwe once the government shows the commitment to the international community that they are willing to address the critical economic and social problems,â€ said Michael Baxter, the World Bankâ€™s director in the region.
Baxter, who returned from an evaluation mission to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, said inflation in Zimbabwe â€” the worldâ€™s highest at 165 000% according to government figures â€” was â€œrealisticallyâ€ at 200 000%.
That figure is still far below estimates of other analysts.
He said the World Bank was prepared to offer emergency grants to help get the local economy back on its feet as soon as the government showed it was dedicated to reform.
Baxter did not comment on Zimbabweâ€™s disputed presidential elections, in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he unseated veteran President Robert Mugabe.
He was speaking about Zimbabweâ€™s government in general terms.
â€œOnce the government says â€˜we want to address seriously our economic and social challengesâ€™, many multilateral and bilateral donors are ready to support (Zimbabwe),â€ Baxter said.
â€œThe first thing will be grants and not loans, because … itâ€™s an emergency issue,â€ said Baxter, who is also in charge of Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Angola for the Bank.
â€œWe will put up a programme for emergency support and this will depend on the governmentâ€™s priorities.
But at the moment, for us, itâ€™s food, health, supplies to small-scale farmers in the form of seeds and
fertiliser, (and) the repair of water and sanitation infrastructures including electricity generation.â€
Zimbabwe â€” which once boasted strong agricultural and manufacturing sectors â€” has slowly descended into economic chaos over the past decade, weighing on regional development.
The country faces chronic shortages of food, water and fuel and has an unemployment rate of 80%.
About 3,5 million out of a population of 12 million Zimbabweans have fled the country since the late 1990â€™s.
Baxter, who was speaking to Reuters by telephone from Maputo, said Zimbabweâ€™s arrears to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank stood at US$1,1 billion. â€” Reuters.