New Zimbabwe government sets 100-day target for economy

The new unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai faces the daunting task of reversing years of economic decline marked by hyper-inflation and severe food and fuel shortages.

The administration has said its short-term emergency recovery programme STERP will require $8.5 billion over the next two to three years. It will depend heavily on help from Western donors and Harare wants financial assistance from countries in the regional grouping SADC.

Mugabe, who critics blame for the country’s economic crisis, told a government reconstruction summit in the resort town of Victoria Falls that there was no time to waste. He blames Western sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic downfall.

"It is our collective hope that after the 100 days, the country will begin experiencing a firm and determined walk on the road to economic stabilisation and recovery," Mugabe said.

"Honourable Prime Minister, you have the challenge of carrying this assignment and, indeed, cabinet will look forward to your implementation of STERP."

SADC leaders have backed the plan, although there are doubts they can offer anything substantial. Mugabe said Zimbabwe must depend on itself.

"I should, however, hasten to point out that the mobilisation of (our) own resources should be considered as key to the successful implementation of STERP, with outside support being complementary," he said.

"This strategic posture is not only necessary but also prudent and far-sighted, more so in the light of the prevailing international financial crisis."  

Tsvangirai told the meeting that while there were some outstanding issues connected to the September power-sharing agreement, the government was making progress.

"As both President Mugabe and I have stated, this agreement is not perfect but it is workable. Proof of this lies in our incremental achievements to date," Tsvangirai said.

"Together, we have overseen the opening of hospitals and schools, the taming of hyperinflation, the lowering of prices of basic commodities and the rationalisation of utility tariffs."