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Finance Minister Says Zimbabwe on Course to Meet Budget Deficit Targets

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube gestures during a media briefing in Harare, Zimbabwe, Oct. 5, 2018.

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe is on track to meet a narrower budget deficit of 5 percent of GDP in 2019 from an estimated 11.7 percent this year, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Wednesday.

Ncube also said the southern African nation achieved a budget surplus of $29 million in October, its first in as many years.

“We achieved a primary (budget) surplus in October. The budget is as good as balanced, we are walking the talk,” Ncube told reporters.

At the same time, Zimbabwe is planning to build a base metals and precious metals refinery that will process platinum from all the country’s platinum mines, a budget statement released last Thursday said.

The country, which is home to the second largest known deposits of platinum after South Africa, will impose a 5 percent tax on export of platinum concentrates in 2019 in a bid to encourage local processing of the metal.

Without giving details, the budget statement said Impala Platinum’s local unit Zimplats had shelved its $131 million project to refurbish a base metals refinery to pave way for the national project.

It was not clear who would be behind the new project or its shareholders.

Zimplats chief executive Alex Mhembere did not immediately respond to calls to his mobile phone.

Implats and Anglo American Platinum have operations in Zimbabwe, while Sibanye-Stillwater also has a joint venture mine with Implats in the country.

Privately-owned Karo Resources has previously said it was planning $4.2 billion platinum mining project, including a precious metals refinery in Zimbabwe.

A Russian consortium and Zimbabwean investors is developing a platinum project in Darwendale near Harare.

The project had stalled under former president Robert Mugabe, who resigned after a coup last year, but was revived when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visited Zimbabwe in March

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