11 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Capitalise On IMF Spring Meetings

FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa is expected to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group in Washington DC this weekend, starting today.

At the heart of the gathering are meetings of the IMF's international monetary and financial committee and the joint World Bank-IMF development committee which review the work of Bretton Woods institutions. Also featured are seminars, regional briefings, press conferences and many other events focused on the global economy, international development and the world's financial markets.

Thousands of government officials, journalists, civil society organisations and participants from the academia and private sectors, will attend for serious dialogue on economic and financial issues.

With the world's finance ministers, central bankers and development experts gathered in Washington DC, Chinamasa, who seems to be struggling to understand how the real world works, has a great opportunity to engage influential government representatives and policy-makers, not just to learn, exchanges notes or pick up ideas, but also to lobby to end Zimbabwe's international isolation.

While there is denial in government circles and among some Zimbabweans, it is clear the economy will not recover and grow unless international isolation ends.

That is why it was important for Zimbabwe to be represented at the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, last week. These meetings are different from talk shops which President Robert Mugabe usually attends all over the world. IMF/World Bank spring meetings or EU-Africa summits are not debating societies or places where pointless discussions take place with no decisions or actions taken.

In relation to EU-Africa summits, statistics show since their advent in 2000, trade has boomed between the two continents largely to due to those interactions and resultant synergies. Even trade between EU and Zimbabwe itself is growing as it is now about US$1 billion, hence the need to consolidate that.

After its recent visit to Harare, the IMF and government authorities made progress in discussions towards an understanding on a package of policy measures and reforms to be monitored in the context of the Staff Monitoring Programme (SMP) through June 2014.

An SMP is an informal agreement between country authorities and the IMF staff, whereby the latter monitors implementation governments' economic programmes.

Although SMPs do not entail financial assistance or endorsement by the IMF executive board, they help to boost investor confidence and capital inflows. That is why Chinamsa is expected to continue discussions with the IMF on policy and reform issues on the sidelines of the spring meetings.

Consideration of the Article IV report compiled by the IMF mission after its recent visit to Zimbabwe by the IMF executive board is scheduled for mid-June, when the mission team will also update the board on the implementation of policies under the SMP.

With growing economic interdependence and complex investment matrices, constructive engagement between Zimbabwe and the international community, particularly the West, is critical to end isolation to ensure economic recovery and national progress.

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