Zimbabwe to see 8-15 % growth in 2011:Biti

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe's economy will grow about 8 to 15 percent in 2011 but any attempts to push through an election could deal it a devastating blow, Finance Minister Tendai Biti told Reuters on Wednesday.\r\n

"We have been very conservative. Our growth forecasts are for 8 percent," he said on the sidelines of the Global Poverty Summit in Johannesburg.

He added growth could be as high as 15 percent if there are no elections or major disruptions to the recovery in the impoverished state.

Earlier this month, state media reported Zimbabwe was likely to postpone a parliamentary election President Robert Mugabe’s party wanted by mid-year in order to allow completion of constitutional reforms.

Critics say rushed polls without political reforms, including a new constitution guaranteeing basic rights, would only favour Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

"A unilateral unplanned election would basically be a bloodbath. Capital will flee. I have to discount robust growth figures because of the fear of a violent election," said Biti, a minister from the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Biti said the economy should benefit from high commodity prices, a bumper crop, overseas investment heading toward emerging economies such as Zimbabwe and growing tourism. He saw GDP at about $6 billion.

The southern African country’s economy expanded for the first time in 2009 under a unity government led by Mugabe and bitter rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the MDC, but investors are still unhappy about Mugabe’s policies.

Biti had said in November that he saw growth of about 10 percent, a figure seen by some analysts as overly optimistic.

An election in 2008 led to bloodshed and hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have left the country due to political violence and as the economy collapsed.