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Zimbabwe FM Biti Sees 9.3 Percent Growth in 2011; IMF Less Optimistic

The IMF projects just 5.5 percent growth, but estimates from development agencies led by the United Nations Development Program are more upbeat calling for growth of 7.8 percent in 2011 and 5.4 percent in 2012

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti says economic growth is likely to outpace his projection of a 9.3 percent expansion in 2011 on strength in agriculture. The International Monetary Fund however is less bullish, projecting an uptick of about half that.

The Reuters news agency quoted Biti as saying the economy will be bolstered by strong commodity and food prices as well as a 44 percent output expansion in mining.

But a just-issued IMF review sees growth easing to 5.5 percent in 2011 from 9 percent in 2010 under pressure from the nation's external debt of some US$7 billion.

Estimates from development agencies led by the United Nations Development Program are more upbeat, seeing growth of 7.8 percent growth in 2011 and 5.4 percent in 2012.

Economist Daniel Ndlela said he believes Biti’s forecast is realistic."He is not off the mark as we expect the economy to grow by about 9.1 percent this year," he said.

But Harare economist John Robertson expects gross domestic product to expand in 2011 by around 7.5 percent due to a slowdown in the first quarter in the manufacturing sector and what he described as "some disappointing results from the mining sector."

Though commodity prices have risen, Zimbabwe mining firms are apprehensive about the government's plan to require a 51 percent stake to be held by black investors. Some mining firms have put investment plans on hold or had trouble raising capital.