HARARE – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government should rally Zimbabweans to work towards rebuilding the country, a week after violent rioters tore through the southern country’s cities looting shops and destroying property.
Last week’s riots came after Mnangagwa announced up to 150 percent hikes in fuel prices, hoping to placate serious shortages that had rocked the country since September last year.
Zimbabwe is facing serious foreign currency shortages to import its vital requirements, including fuel and medicine.
Rights groups estimated at the weekend that at least 12 people had been killed in the disturbances that grounded business and pushed Zimbabwe steps back from achieving the time lines of a road map announced by the country’s Minister of Finance in October under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme.
With tensions still simmering in major cities, where many shops remained closed on Monday, the IMF said corroborative efforts were now imperative to get the country on track to promote sustainable policies.
The IMF is the only Breton Woods institution repaid out of several multilateral lenders owed over US$7 billion by Zimbabwe, which stopped servicing debts in 1999 as its economy started to weaken.
But spokesman, Gerry Rice, told a press conference in Washington at the weekend that despite clearing its arrears to the Fund, Zimbabwe will not qualify for its funding until it paid off billions more owed to other international banks.
“I would say that of course Zimbabwe is facing major challenges and just in terms of the unrest, we encourage all stakeholders to collaborate peacefully in developing and implementing policies that will stabilise the economy and promote sustainable and inclusive growth” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice
“I said here the last time that the authorities’ economic policies we felt were headed in the right direction broadly in terms of addressing the fiscal deficit and monetary policy and so on. In terms of the IMF, Zimbabwe has in fact cleared its arrears to us, to the Fund, but our rules preclude lending to a country that is still in or under arrears to other international financial institutions. So until that particular situation is resolved, we would not be moving forward with financial support for Zimbabwe,” Rice said.
He said Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s reforms “were headed in the right direction” towards mending the fiscal deficit that has affected the country, but the country needed stability for his efforts to work.
“On the overall economic situation, debt and the IMF, there has been no real change in what I have said here recently, which is Zimbabwe continues to be in a difficult situation regarding debt with protracted arrears to official creditors including multilateral creditors such as the World Bank which severely limits Zimbabwe’s access to international financial support,” he said.
While the country has cleared its arrears, official statistics indicate that Zimbabwe owes US$687 million to the AfDB, US$1,4 billion to the World Bank and US$322 million to the European Investment Bank.
In total, the country’s debt to international lenders stood at US$7,6 billion at the end of last year, with US$1,3 billion in arrears.