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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Urges Unity of Purpose in Reducing Foreign Debt

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the Zimbabwean Cabinet was deeply divided on the way forward regarding debt clearance and called upon his ministers to shun political divisions

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday urged the unity government partners in Harare to set aside their political differences and focus on a strategy to reduce the country’s US$5.7 billion foreign debt.

Addressing delegates at a workshop organized by an inter-ministerial committee on debt chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Mr. Tsvangirai said cabinet was deeply divided on the way forward regarding debt clearance and called upon ministers to shun political divisions.

Officials of the World Bank and African Development Bank, which are major creditors of Zimbabwe, also attended the session.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Zimbabwe should seek debt forgiveness under the International Monetary Fund's Highly Indebted Poor Countries or HIPC program. Biti said Zimbabwe was essentiallly bankrupt and could not afford to pay its debt and arrears with the means at its disposal.

Opponents of this approach say Zimbabwe should tap its mineral resources for funding to catch up arrears and reduce its ballooning debt.

Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that most of those giving their views at the meeting advised Zimbabwe to seek HIPC debt relief.

"There are those who felt that Zimbabwe should use its mineral resources to finance debt clearance, but the fact is that our minerals were mortgaged long ago to foreign companies. It is therefore in this respect that some of us feel that the best way to go is to file for the HIPC program,"Mangoma said.