Zimbabwe economy to grow 3.7 percent: minister

Presenting the country’s half-year national budget to parliament Biti also ruled out the return of the Zimbabwe dollar in the near future, increased the salaries of civil servants and slashed import duty on key raw materials.

"The country’s GDP (gross domestic product) is poised to grow by 3.7 percent," Biti told lawmakers at a sitting also attended by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara.

"The figure of 3.7 percent is a very pessimistic one."

He said the growth would be spawned by "buoyant mineral prices on the international market" and increased production in the manufacturing sector.

But he warned the economic "green shoots" were no reason for complacency, urging the country’s political leaders to stick to a power-sharing agreement between Tsvangirai and long-ruling President Robert Mugabe, meant to haul the country back from the brink of collapse.

"The green shoots of recovery that are beginning to sprout don’t mean we are out of the woods," Biti warned.

He bemoaned the state of the economy with its low revenue base and 70 percent of the meagre collections being swallowed by wage payments.

Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant economy was shattered by a decade of world-record hyperinflation that has left half the nation dependent on international food aid, while unemployment was last estimated at 94 percent.