Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined arch-rival President Robert Mugabe in February in a bid to end a decade of political hostility and economic crisis, chaired the closed door meetings to assess the government’s first 100-day targets.

Mugabe, 85, is on a week’s holiday.

Critics see the retreat as a waste of money by a bankrupt government struggling to pay its workers, including hundreds of doctors who went on strike two weeks ago over wages.

Although Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s adminstration has managed to stem Zimbabwe’s rapid economic decline, analysts say it has missed most of its short-term targets due to financial problems, a lack of focus and haggling over policy reforms.

“The future lies in Zimbabwe getting huge capital and investment injections, in getting some massive foreign aid,” politcal scientist Eldred Masunungure of the University of Zimbabwe said.

“But it is also very clear now that we are not going to be getting that from the traditional Western donors until issues of governance and human rights have been addressed,” he said.

Tsvangirai went the US and Europe in June but was told the West would only come to Zimbabwe’s aid when it created a democracy and improved human rights after decades of what critics say was Mugabe’s repressive one-party rule.

The new unity government has so far only managed to raise about $1bn in credit lines from African countries against $10bn thought necessary to rebuild pot-holed roads, bare hospitals, dilapidated schools and ease 90% unemployment.

The government wants to lift industrial capacity utilisation to 60% from 10 to 20%, but economists say they are only half way to meeting that target.

In January, Harare lifted a ban on the use of foreign currency to stem hyperinflation of more than 230mn% that had rendered the Zimbabwe dollar almost worthless.

The decision led to falling prices and a flood of goods onto previously barren supermarket shelves, but ordinary Zimbabweans are still struggling in an economy in which state workers earn an average $150 a month.

“These retreats are a waste of time and money because the government knows the economy will not get right simply on good plans when the politics is bad and the national pocket is empty,” said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a political pressure group.- Reuters