President, Putin set for key talks

President Emmerson Mnangagwa will meet Russia’s President Vladmir Putin early next year, as he continues his engagement and re-engagement drive that is calculated to integrate Zimbabwe into the global family of nations and spur growth as part of the vision to create an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

In August this year, Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga was in Moscow as President Mnangagwa’s special envoy, to relay a message to the Kremlin.

Writing for The Sunday Mail in his inaugural column for this publication, which will be exclusively carried by this paper every week, President Mnangagwa said his charm offensive on the sidelines of this year’s United Nations General Assembly had yielded a “solid stock of goodwill”.

That goodwill, he said, had helped Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube make significant headway on an arrears clearance deal with creditors last week.

“As I write, our delegation led by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, is in Bali, Indonesia, where it is meeting development partners and creditors. This initiative, which is a continuation of our engagement and re-engagement policy, has elicited good responses from IFIs and development partners,” said President Mnangagwa.

“The numerous contacts I made on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gave our country a solid stock of goodwill which our delegation in Bali has fully exploited. Key countries which include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa, the EU bloc and even the United States of America, have responded favourably to our engagement overtures, and have welcomed our debt-settlement plan for the US$5,6 billion we owe IFIs and the Paris Club, and our Transitional Stabilisation Plan which we will now fully implement.

“The People’s Republic of China continues to support us both bilaterally and internationally, including by way of private sector investments which continue to enhance national capacity.

‘‘Early next year, I am set to meet President Putin in Russia to explore ways to enhance our co-operation,” he said.

Last week, Prof Ncube announced that the IMF and World Bank had endorsed Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance plan and two-year Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).

The African Development Bank, EU, France, UK, USA, Australia, Netherlands and South Africa also expressed their support.

The TSP will guide the country’s economic thrust through to December 2020.

Zimbabwe arrears currently stand at $5,6 billion, which are spilt into $2,2 billion (multilateral creditors), $2,7 billion (Paris Club) and $700 million (non-Paris Club $700 million).

Prof Ncube told The Sunday Mail last week that next month Government would engage two specific sponsors who are G7 members to secure bridging finance required to clear arrears with multilateral creditors. The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Government will engage the G7 as a bloc and also two specific creditors within G7, as potential sponsors. I have already told the two potential sponsors that I will be approaching them at the end of November,” Prof Ncube said.

In a speech at Chatham House — an international affairs think-tank in London — last Monday, Prof Ncube said the plan was likely to be “adhoc” and “custom-made”.

“In the end the arrears plan for Zimbabwe will be adhoc; it will be custom-made.

‘‘I think it will be similar to the Myanmar one, where Japan was the sponsor, so even for us, we need a sponsor to make this happen, then cajole the rest of the club for debt restructure,” he said.

Myanmar, which was saddled by a debt of $11 billion, met the Paris Club on January 25, 2013 and the latter agreed to cancel half of the arrears in two stages and rescheduled the rest over 15 years, with a seven-year grace period.

Norway cancelled all the $534 million owed to it, while Japan cancelled more than $3 billion.

The Japan Bank for International Co-operation extended $500 million to help clear arrears to the Asian Development Bank.