13 February 2014

Zimbabwe Gets U.S.$23 Million Infrastructure Grant From China

Harare — Zimbabwe on Tuesday received a 23 million U.S. dollars grant from China to finance infrastructure construction in rural areas.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Lin Lin signed the deal in Harare, the capital of the southern African country.

Chinamasa said the grant will be earmarked for the construction of clinics, primary and secondary schools in resettled areas acquired under the land reform program. Other projects covered by the grant include boreholes drilling, and acquiring meteorological equipment.

Chinamasa said the grant was one of the results of his visit to Beijing at the end of last December, a few months after his appointment as the country's top economic manager.

Zimbabwe has adopted a "Look East" policy since 2005 as it increasingly relies on the emerging Asian economies, especially China, to offset sanctions and "cold shoulders" from traditional West partners.

For the past three years, China has become Zimbabwe's top foreign investor and bilateral trade has grown over 1.2 billion U. S. dollars in 2013, with Zimbabwe enjoying the trade surplus, due to its significant tobacco export to China.

"China has supported Zimbabwe in various forms, which include sizable chunk of grants, interest free and concessional loans," Chinamasa said, urging Beijing to continue its support for Zimbabwe's five-year economic plan.

Also known as ZimAsset, the five-year plan is the ruling Zanu- PF party's recipe for Zimbabwe's economic recovery. It aims to achieve average 7 percent gross domestic product growth in the five years ending 2018 from an estimated 3.4 percent in 2013.

But officials recently warned that for the blueprint to materialize, the country needs about 27 billion U.S. dollars investment.

Chinamasa said the financial requirements for ZimAsset were too huge such that Zimbabwe cannot go it alone.

"It will therefore require friends like China who have played a significant role in supporting the country's economic development initiatives during difficult and trying times," Chinamasa added.

The finance minister said the two governments agreed that while they were working towards the conclusion of a comprehensive financial package within the next three months, the Chinese embassy would continue availing support for other programs and projects.

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