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Zimbabweans Hail Donor Summit to Help Boost Faltering Economy


Zimbabweans have welcomed a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit aimed at raising funds to help revive the country's troubled economy. The donor summit expected to be held in neighboring South Africa next week will discuss proposals presented by Harare officials on ways to help their faltering economy recover from the world's highest inflation. Although Zimbabwe claims it needs about five billion dollars to help stimulate the economy, SADC's council of ministers has already endorsed a proposal to assist Zimbabwe in its recovery plan. It includes a beneficial financial package.

Political analyst George Mkwananzi tells reporter Peter Clottey Zimbabweans are hopeful the economic recovery will end the suffering of the masses that live in abject poverty.

"Obviously, most Zimbabweans are looking forward to a situation in their country where things will get better to the normal and perhaps look forward to going back and work in a normal way," Mkwananzi pointed out.

He said the international community seems to have adopted a wait and see attitude before lifting sanctions or donating money to help jumpstart the faltering economy.

"Most of the western donors are not prepared to start to allow resources to flow to the direction of Zimbabwe, obviously because there are a number of things that are still pending. Robert Mugabe has not convincingly shown that he is committed to a truly equitable distribution of power, and most of the things that he has so far done, he had to be pushed in order to get to that situation. So there is no good will being exhibited by Robert Mugabe which makes most of these donor countries unwilling and reluctant to immediately work with him in that regard," he said.

Mkwananzi said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would raise funds to help the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe.

"I don't think that much of that money would be sought from the western countries. I think the bigger chunk of that money is likely to be mobilized from third world countries, particularly in the SADC countries themselves. As you remember that the arrangement in Zimbabwe was a direct child of the African Union as well as the SADC, so I'm sure they will not want to be embarrassed by a situation where an initiative by themselves is allowed to crumble primarily because it cannot be resolved. So I think they will go a mile in order to demonstrate that what they initiated, they can sustain," Mkwananzi noted.

He said Zimbabwe's neighbor South Africa has been resolute in its effort to helping Harare get back on its feet.

"Indeed I think South Africa has played an extremely pivotal role in getting the situation in Zimbabwe to where it is today, which makes it really a bigger responsibility indeed for South Africa again to ensure that whatever has been put together and seems to be working is not allowed to get to a situation where it doesn't work again? So I think most of these monies will come from South Africa. But there would be some quarters in South Africa which might want to resist this. But as a political decision taken by the government of South Africa alongside the other members of SADC, I think South Africa will ensure that a big chunk of money will be injected into the economy of Zimbabwe," he said.

Harare has said it would need about 2 billion U.S. dollars, half of that in the form of credit and the other half in the form of development budget support to kick-start the recovery program. It adds that it would need a one billion-dollar loan to stimulate retail and related industries and another one billion dollars for emergencies such as education, health municipal services and infrastructure. SADC has also expressed determination to help Zimbabwe mobilize resources for its economic recovery.

Longtime President Robert Mugabe recently called for foreign aid to revive his nation's shattered economy and urged Washington and Brussels to end what he described as cruel sanctions on his inner circle. Mugabe issued the appeal at the launch of a new economic recovery plan prepared by the unity government.

Washington said Zimbabwe has a long way to go before the US lifts sanctions on Mugabe's inner circle. This comes after Harare's unity government presented a document saying political reforms demanded by Western donors are a crucial part of an emergency recovery plan to ease hyper-inflation and widespread shortages of food and fuel.

During the launch of what the new Zimbabwe unity government described as a short-term Emergency Recovery Program, Mugabe called for international help for the plan and reiterated a call for sanctions to be lifted. But Washington said it needed to see clear signs of reform.

The European Union and the United States maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle in protest of controversial elections and alleged human rights abuses by his government. Although his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister in a unity government last month, western countries say they will maintain the sanctions until the 85-year-old leader proves he is ready to reform.

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