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New Surge In Zimbabwe Inflation As IMF Delegation Opens Talks

A delegation of the International Monetary Fund was in Harare late this week for talks with the government, state media and Reuters reported, though it was not clear if the discussions amounted to the full consultation envisioned ahead of a meeting later this month of the IMF executive board which would take up Zimbabwe's case.

Zimbabwe state media said IMF Executive Director for Africa Peter Gakunu met late Thursday with President Robert Mugabe to discuss the economic crisis and Harare’s relations with the Fund, troubled by policy differences and debt service arrears.

A Reuters report quoted a Zimbabwean official as saying there was no talk of aid.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa as saying Mugabe told Gakuna Zimbabwe was focusing on agriculture as critical to the hoped-for economic recovery, alongside mining and tourism . On Friday, Mugabe inaugurated 99-year leases for farms seized from white commercial farmers.

Inflation was sure to be on the IMF-Zimbabwe agenda, and there the news was not good. Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office said inflation rebounded in October to 1,070% after 1,023% in September. It had fallen under 1,000% in August.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute in Harare, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the low-profile visit may indicate the IMF hopes to mend fences.

Economic consultant John Robertson commented earlier that a recent IMF projection of 4,000% average inflation in 2007 could be borne out unless the government makes an about-turn in economic policy beginning with the moribund farming sector.

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