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IMF Officials Express Bafflement At Zimbabwean Economy - Civic Groups

International Monetary Fund officials in Zimbabwe for consultations and assessment of the country's economic plight met Tuesday with civic leaders and told them that it is a mystery top them how the country has survived under current conditions.

The IMF team is in Harare for so-called Article IV consultations and assessments that will prepare the ground for a meeting in February of the Fund’s executive board, which will again examine Zimbabwe's status as an IMF member nation.

Civic leaders met with Sharmini Coorey, head of the IMF delegation and a manager in the institution's Asia-Pacific department, and team member Jens Clausen. They told civil society activists that the IMF still does not know the source of US$175 million that Harare paid to the Fund in 2005 against arrears to stave off expulsion.

The IMF officials said it remained a mystery how Zimbabweans have survived in an environment of hyperinflation and chronic shortages of the essentials of life.

The comments on Harare's debt payments came after NGO officials asked the team why the IMF had pressed Harare to pay debt arrears when many Zimbabweans did not have enough to eat. NGO sources said the officials responded that they had only demanded Harare make policy changes, and that money was never an issue.

But Harare insisted on paying down debt arrears while ignoring IMF urgings that the government's fundamental economic approach be overhauled.

The so-called Article IV assessment started Dec. 4 and runs through Dec. 16.

Spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the IMF representatives expressed concern at the lack of safety nets for Zimbabwe’s poor.

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