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IMF Prepares to Examine Zimbabwe Economy


The International Monetary Fund's Zimbabwe country team is preparing to begin its six-month review of the economy. Economists say the IMF team will find an even worse situation than last year when Zimbabwe narrowly avoided expulsion for failure to repay its debt.

The Zimbabwe currency has lost about 35 percent of its value on the parallel or black market since last Friday, the biggest single drop since the financial crisis began six years ago.

Traders say the government has been buying foreign currency to pay foreign bills, such as electricity, and this pushed up the rate.

Several businesses that depend on foreign currency for survival say they had temporarily ceased trading because they could not afford the new rate of 150,000 Zimbabwe dollars for one $1.

They said the rate also went up because many industries had gone back to work after the Christmas holidays and needed foreign currency for imports.

The International Monetary Fund will find more economic instability this review period than ever before, according to analysts.

Economist and academic Tony Hawkins said the International Monetary Fund will discover that Zimbabwe central bank policy has been inflationary. He says since the last IMF visit, exports have substantially diminished and the overall economic situation has deteriorated.

Last month's annual inflation rate was more than 600 percent and it is still rising, according to traders.

Financial consultant Daniel Ndlela says the International Monetary Fund will discover that although there have been some financial reforms the central problem, lack of good governance, remains. He said Zimbabwe continues to be critically short of foreign currency and that situation will not change in the foreseeable future without political reform.

Zimbabwe repaid a total of about $140 million in the last six months, which staved off its expulsion. The International Monetary Fund says it is not sure where some of that money came from and it is not clear whether it will be able to determine that during this visit.

Last October, Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono said Zimbabwe would pay the remaining $144 million owed to the fund in two installments, next month and in November.

But all optimistic financial predictions made by Gono and finance minister Herbert Murerwa in the past six months have failed to materialize. They had forecast a small growth in the economy, which some economists said was not possible.

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