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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Launches Economic Recovery Plan, Urges End to Sanctions

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe urged the international community Thursday to support the country's economic recovery by providing as much as US$5 billion in assistance and financing, simultaneously calling for Western targeted sanctions to be lifted.

The U.S. government quickly responded that the national unity government installed last month with ministers from Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the two formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change needed to effect more significant reforms before Washington would expand aid beyond humanitarian relief.

Mr. Mugabe issued his appeal for financial support in rolling out a so-called Short-Term Emergency Recovery Program drafted by the country's new economic team led by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who on Wednesday presented his 2009 budget to parliament.

Biti proposed US$1 billion in spending against projected revenues of US$1 billion, though he acknowledged that current receipts must pick up strongly if the budget is to balance.

The recovery plan, subtitled "Getting Zimbabwe Moving Again," seeks to "lay the basis of a more transformative mid-term to long-term economic program that will turn Zimbabwe into a progressive developmental state." It contemplates an overhaul of the constitution along with rehabilitation of the agricultural, mining and tourism sectors of the economy.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on the news conference in Harare at which Mr. Mugabe issued his appeal for global assistance.

Independent analyst Farai Mamina told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that it will be very difficult for Harare to convince Western governments to lift targeted sanctions because the rule of law has yet to be restored despite the launch of a national unity government.

Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloch said the government should lose no time instituting reforms if it is hoping that Western donors will loosen their purses.

For a broader perspective on the quest for an economic turnaround, reporter Patience Rusere turned to economists Nhlanhla Nyathi and John Robertson, both of whom said the economy would not reverse direction soon due to the continued need for restoration of the rule of law and improved governance to boost donor and investor confidence.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe