Britain will support Zimbabwe in getting onto an interim International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff programme to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears, Britain’s ambassador in Harare said on Tuesday.
Clearing the $1.8bn in arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank is seen as a major step for Zimbabwe to start accessing foreign credit, especially for the private sector, as well as foreign direct investment.
British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing said an IMF programme would help the former British colony expedite the clearance of its arrears. “We are here to give that support to try and encourage a process back to an IMF programme, perhaps through an interim staff monitoring programme, as soon as possible. Laing said this would enable Zimbabwe “to start a serious dialogue” around the clearance of the arrears.
Zimbabwe’s finance minister Mthuli Ncube said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was still deciding whether to follow the heavily indebted poor country (HIPC) route or a commercial deal to clear the arrears. Only then would it come up with a timeline to pay the arrears, he said, adding that he would launch an economic stabilisation programme next month.
Zimbabwe, which is trying to shake off its international pariah tag, started defaulting on its foreign debt in 1999. The West put sanctions on the country in 2002 as punishment against former president Robert Mugabe’s government, which was accused of vote fraud and rights abuses.
Laing said that along with economic measures, such as reducing the country’s fiscal deficit, Britain also wanted Harare to carry out political reforms, including aligning the country’s laws to a 2013 constitution. “We will be tracking both pathways, the economic pathway and political pathway. We want Zimbabwe to succeed.”