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Paris Club of Bilateral Lenders Pressures Zimbabwe To Service Debts

The Paris Club of Western creditor nations has stepped up pressure on Zimbabwe to resume servicing its debts to other countries and to normalize relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Diplomatic sources said Paris Club Co-Chairman Ambroise Fayolle raised the issue of Zimbabwe's arrears in a letter to Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa this month.

The Paris Club regretted that “no payments are being made,” Fayolle told Murerwa. He urged the government of Zimbabwe to “normalise relations with the IMF and the World Bank. Such action, Fayolle said, would be “a prerequisite for Paris Club treatment,” a reference to enjoying concessional interest rates.

Paris Club and IMF officials declined to disclose how much Zimbabwe owes Paris Club members. But the central bank said the country’s foreign debt totals US$3.9 billion.

Zimbabwe has had difficulty servicing its IMF debt and staved off expulsion moves by the IMF board by making surprise payments last year. The IMF has suspended the country's voting rights and cut off Harare from receiving further loans.

A spokeswoman for the Fund said an IMF team was expected to visit Harare later this month for a so-called Article IV assessment, while the IMF executive board is expected to review Zimbabwe’s status as a member some time in November.

For a business perspective on the demands by the Paris Club, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to economist Luxon Zembe, a former president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce, who said Harare must normalize ties.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Mufandaedza Hove, a spokesman on economic issues for the opposition faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, said the government of President Robert Mugabe has no idea how to solve the economic crisis.

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