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British Lawmakers Say Zimbabwe Aid Should be Increased


But fragile political situation means that could be reversed at any time

British lawmakers say conditions in Zimbabwe have improved in the past year, but the fragile political situation means that could be reversed at any time. The report from the House of Commons' International Development Committee said violence and intimidation, bad governance, and a lack of basic services remain major problems.

Chair of the British committee, Malcolm Bruce, says the economic situation in Zimbabwe has improved in the past year and living conditions seem to be improving.

"Within that space the donor agencies and aid agencies were able to function in delivering some pretty impressive services in the form of education and health, infrastructure, livelihoods - but that was on the basis of a huge reduction in activity in previous years. So there is a massive backlog and they are by no means turning the situation around," he said.

He said Britain will continue its aid to Zimbabwe, which was almost $100 million in 2009.

And he said more aid will be channeled into educating Zimbabwe's children.

The committee welcomed a power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party and the MDC party. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister in February 2009.

But, he said, power-sharing between the two leaders is imbalanced and the political situation is poor. "The political situation is extremely fraught -- there is a total lack of trust and there is still the threat and violence and intimidation and worse to prevent progress," said Bruce.

The committee also said European Union sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle could not be lifted. "The British ambassador and other international leaders have made it clear that if progress is made towards the agreements that were signed for the inclusive government, then sanctions could be lifted," said Bruce.

Alex Vines is from the London-based research group Chatham House. He says it's no surprise that the committee maintained their support for sanctions. But he said he thinks it's important for a framework to be put in place so that headway can be made towards getting the sanctions lifted.

"I would like to see some indications of what type of benchmarks if they were achieved would open the way for gradual lifting of some of the sanctions in return for progress at the Global Political Agreement," said Vines.

Vines says despite problems with the Global Political Agreement it's important to Zimbabwe that Britain maintains its aid contribution. "The reality is that there is no alternative to the Global Political Agreement - the GPA - on Zimbabwe at the moment and countries like the UK need to consider how they can support the poor in Zimbabwe as well as encouraging political progress in that country," he said,

The report from the International Development Committee was drawn up by 11 lawmakers who recently spent four days in Zimbabwe.

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