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Proposal for IMF Staff Monitoring of Zimbabwe Economic Reforms Divides Cabinet


The IMF executive board wrapped up a so-called Article IV consultation with Zimbabwe last month and concluded that Harare must adhere to strict economic policies to attract foreign direct investment

Zimbabwe's national unity government has divided along party lines over a proposal by the International Monetary Fund to launch a so-called staff monitored program in Zimbabwe in return for debt-forgiveness.

The country has some US$7.2 billion dollars in external debt, the IMF recently said.

The IMF executive board wrapped up a so-called Article IV consultation with Zimbabwe last month and concluded that Harare must adhere to strict economic policies to attract foreign direct investment.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which controls the finance and economic planning ministries, has welcomed the IMF recommendations and launched consultations for a medium-term economic recovery blueprint.

But sources in the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe said agreeing to IMF staff monitoring would erode the country’s independence. They said ZANU-PF rejects reliance on foreign investment, instead urging Planning Minister Elton Mangoma to tap domestic resources to fund capital requirements estimated at US$11 billion.

Staff monitored programs have been put in place in Chad, Sudan, Togo, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Macedonia.

Planning Minister Mangoma told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the Cabinet is still discussing the way forward on the economy and the IMF role in debt relief and reconstruction.

Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, said IMF staff monitoring is a first step toward re-engagement and debt relief

Meanwhile Wednesday, business leaders from Ghana and Zimbabwe were meeting in Accra, Ghana, aiming to bolster trade relations. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara led a delegation of ministers and Zimbabwean business leaders to the Zimbabwe-Ghana Business Forum and Exhibition.

About 50 Zimbabwean and 400 Ghanaian companies are taking part in the forum as Zimbabwe seeks a larger share of the $18 billion that Ghana spends annually on imports.

Mutambara told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the forum offers a platform for investors from both countries to identify opportunities to increase trade in both directions. "In Zimbabwe we have the land, agriculture, mining and all so Ghana can tap our rich experience in the agriculture sector while we can also learn from Ghana's banking sector which has seen a lot of reforms and is very good," Mutambara said.

Ghanaian Deputy Trade Minister Mahama Ayariga told journalists: "The best way forward for African countries is to trade among themselves and the initiative by Zimbabwe is a step in the right direction."

Asked by journalists in Ghana about new elections in Zimbabwe, Mutambara said Zimbabwe will not rush things. "We are busy working on electoral reforms, economic, political reforms and constitutional reforms that will make our elections free and fair," he said. "In Zimbabwe the question should not be about how soon elections should be held, it should be how to organize quality elections. There will be no elections until such time that we are ready."

Asked when elections were likely to be held, Mutambara responded: "It will not go beyond 2013. We want to make sure that everything is set before elections are held."

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