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Biti: Free Elections to Solve Zimbabwe’s Economic Woes

Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Thursday said only a free and fair election later this year can help Zimbabwe emerge from its economic problems.

Speaking at a gathering organized by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries to discuss the country’s economic outlook, Mr. Biti said credible elections are the only weapon against the country's economic woes.

Zimbabweans are expected to go to the polls sometime this year after a referendum on the new constitution, which some officials have said could come as early as March.

Biti believes an election that is seen as fair and credible will open the floodgates to foreign direct investment.

The finance minister said he hopes that the country’s economy could grow by at least 10 percent over the next several years, thanks to increased production in the mining and agriculture sectors.

However, he expressed disappointment over other less productive sectors of the economy.

With Biti pinning his hopes for the country’s economic recovery on agriculture, he said a land audit must be carried out if the proposed constitution is adopted to ensure that redistributed farms and other lands are being utilized to their potential.
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Due to the country’s poor economic showing over the last decade, which Biti blamed largely on President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms, he said Zimbabwe has struggled to repay its debts to global lending institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The minister said Zimbabwe’s foreign debt is now hovering at more than $10 billion.

Biti likened Zimbabwe to a poorly-run company and urged the country to improve its portfolio and business-friendly image.

Biti said the finance ministry is in the process of drafting a law that, if approved by parliament, would compel the government to lay out its economic projections for at least 5 years, saying this would help officials set budget priorities and improve planning.