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Zimbabwe Economic Team Headed for Washington Face-Off With IMF Board

Zimbabwe’s top economic officials were to head for Washington on Wednesday to plead the country’s case before the International Monetary Fund executive board, which is to deliberate on Friday whether to expel the country as a Fund member over debt service arrears which were recently reduced but not entirely liquidated.

Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono were to travel to Washington via Johannesburg, Harare administration sources said, hoping to stave off expulsion with a last-ditch appeal to the IMF board.

Reports said the IMF was demanding payment of another $50 million in arrears in addition to the $120 million which Zimbabwe paid last week against total arrears of around $300 million.

Harare is also continuing to negotiate with South Africa for a sizeable loan which might enable Zimbabwe to dispose of the $180 million in arrears outstanding as of the latest information Tuesday. But those discussions appear to have hung up on the issue of conditions Pretoria has attached to such a loan, including democratic reforms.

Such conditions have been repeatedly dismissed by President Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Gono told parliament on Tuesday that the IMF had demanded an additional $50 million. Efforts to confirm this information with IMF officials were unsuccessful.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked economist Anthony Hawkins, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe Business School, about the role the IMF assessment team recently in Harare would play in the executive board’s decision, and whether politics or financial issues would weigh more heavily.

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