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Following Mission, IMF Urges Harare to Step Up Reforms

The International Monetary Fund has again urged the government of Zimbabwe to urgently undertake “comprehensive” economic policy changes without which, said the global lender of last resort, the country’s economic prospects would be “bleak.”

The IMF statement was issued upon the conclusion of an eight-day visit by a team of experts who consulted with Harare’s economic management team, civil society groups and others. It made no reference to inquiries said to be made by the IMF team into the origin of $120 million which Zimbabwe paid last year against its debt arrears, or to the latest wave of farm seizures which some warn are further undermining growth.

The statement merely alluded to the upcoming meeting of the IMF Executive Board at which Zimbabwe’s “overdue obligations” to the Fund are to be reviewed, stating that the purpose of the visit was to review economic conditions and provide advice.

Zimbabwe’s membership in the IMF is under suspension, and the country in theory could be obliged to withdraw entirely if it does not settle debt service arrears of some $140 million. The statement said that the IMF mission “emphasized that Zimbabwe’s economic crisis calls for urgent implementation of a comprehensive policy package” including reduced public spending, exchange rate liberalization, tighter monetary policy, and reduced Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe financing of public budgets.

Noting “continued food shortages” in Zimbabwe, the IMF statement said the team also urged the government to in allocating scarce foreign exchange to give a high priority to ensuring adequate food supplies, and simultaneously to improve food distribution.

The Harare government has been criticized for making large payments on its debt to the International Monetary Fund at a time when millions of its citizens face hunger.

Reporter Blessing Zulu spoke with Harare-based economist Erich Bloch, an advisor to the central bank, who said that although Zimbabwean authorities and the IMF reached agreement on some issues, there was no meeting of the minds on others.

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