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Harare Seeks Economic Solution In Government-Business-Labor Talks

A technical committee of Zimbabwe’s Tripartite Negotiating Forum met in Harare on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a social contract involving government, business and labor to help the country can navigate a deepening economic crisis.

Chairing the session was Ray Ndhlukula, deputy secretary to President Robert Mugabe and the cabinet, sources said. Both the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the pro-government Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions were represented. Business was represented by the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe.

Tripartite talks were halted in January 2006 amid accusations from labor that Harare was not committed to reaching an agreement. Despite this initiative, economists warn that the effort cannot succeed without support from the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions as well as bilateral partners.

Economist James Jowa noted that Harare has still not settled its differences with the IMF, whose executive board late last week maintained its suspension of the country’s voting rights in the institution and other sanctions for another six months.

The IMF wants Harare to settle debt arrears of some US$129 million and to implement sweeping economic reforms, in particular slashing public spending.

Chief Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute, a unit of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that employers are not ready to peg salaries to poverty line set by the Consumer Council until prices stabilize.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...