Finance Minister optimistic on IMF aid

MBABANE, Swaziland – Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Monday he remained confident the International Monetary Fund would assist his country, despite the lender's concerns raised during a mission to Harare.

The IMF last week set conditions for any new lending, including the government’s ability to rally donor support and settle more than 125 million dollars in arrears.

Biti told reporters on the sidelines of a regional summit in Swaziland, where leaders are considering aid to Zimbabwe, that he believed the global lender would eventually set the stage for new assistance.

"I am absolutely positive that they will write a report that says look, Zimbabwe is bankable, there is a new brand that is being created here," Biti said.

"They express great pleasure with our macroeconomic framework," he said.

The erstwhile opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai last month formed a unity government with long-time ruler President Robert Mugabe.

The new cabinet has unveiled an economic recovery plan that slashed price controls, eased import restrictions and made the South African rand the currency of reference — after the local Zimbabwe dollar collapsed in value, leaving it worthless.

The summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was meeting to consider how to help Zimbabwe’s reconstruction, which the government says will require US$8.5 billion over the next three years.

So far, regional leaders have made few concrete promises of aid, aside from pledging to help Zimbabwe win donor support.

"We are less concerned with the quantitative amounts that have been pledged than with the principle" that SADC was accepting responsibility for the power-sharing deal brokered by the bloc, Biti said.

Opening the summit, Swazi King Mswati III urged western countries to end their sanctions on Zimbabwe, which Biti said he believed key donors like the United States and Britain would do.

"They will join the party, not because we are asking them to, but because what we are doing on the ground is a reflection that this an irreversible process to change, this is an irreversible process to democratisation," he said. – AFP