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Zimbabwe Finance Minister Biti Seeks US Help on Shortage of USD Bills & Coin


Zimbabwe adopted a mixed hard-currency monetary regime using the U.S. dollar and other currencies including the South African rand and Botswana pula in early 2009 by time the Zimbabwe dollar had lost all value due to hyperinflation

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti, in Washington this week, will seek U.S. assistance in securing a supply of small-denomination American banknotes and coins to ease everyday transactions in the country.

Biti and Economic Planning Minister Tapiwa Mashakada will also be holding broader talks with U.S., International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials seeking further steps toward normal financial ties, Biti said.

Zimbabwe adopted a mixed hard-currency monetary regime using the U.S. dollar and other currencies including the South African rand and Botswana pula in early 2009 by time the Zimbabwe dollar had lost all value following years of accelerating hyperinflation. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had flooded the market with Zimbabwe dollar bills of ever larger denominations, debasing the currency such that ordinary commodities went for billions.

But U.S. bills and coins are in short supply and those in circulation have become so worn and filthy that Zimbabweans have taken to laundering them and hanging them out to dry before attempting to spend them.

U.S. economist and monetary policy expert Steve Hanke said the Zimbabwean government could readily purchase American currency and coins on the open market, but may not find Washington receptive to supplying them.

International relations expert Innocent Sithole agreed U.S. concessions may not be forthcoming.

The U.S. State Department recently rebuffed a Harare ministerial delegation asking for a review of American travel and financial sanctions targeting President Robert Mugabe and more than 200 members of his inner circle. The U.S. officials said members of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party have continued to violate human rights.

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