IMF to visit Zimbabwe

A high-level International Monetary Fund mission will visit Zimbabwe next week after a two year break to assess the country’s dire economic situation and humanitarian crisis.
In a statement, the IMF said a staff mission led by Vitaliy Kramarenko will visit Harare between 9 and 24 March to conduct a regular review of the economy under the IMF’s so-called Article IV consultations.
Reuters adds the visit by the IMF is not expected to lead to financial aid for Zimbabwe, but officials said it would give the lenders an idea of the direction of government economic policy.
“The IMF mission will review Zimbabwe’s economic situation and prospects and discuss with the authorities their policies to address the acute economic and humanitarian crisis facing the country,” the Fund said.
“The IMF team will work closely with a parallel World Bank mission,” the IMF added.
The visit comes weeks after a new power-sharing government of old rivals was formed between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the country’s sole ruler for nearly three decades, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai, the main opposition leader.
The IMF suspended Zimbabwe’s voting rights in June 2003, barring it from participating in IMF decisions, as the Mugabe government fell behind on paying its IMF debts and the economic situation deteriorated.
“It is an important mission for the Bank, the Fund, for the government and donors,” said Michael Baxter, the World Bank’s director in the region told Reuters.
“We’re trying to get a direct assessment of the governments proposed policies, how they are starting to implement them, and how they will lead to a longer term stabilization,” Baxter added.
Last week, Southern African finance minister called on the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank to help Zimbabwe recover from economic collapse and put the initial financing need at $2 billion.
Under their rules, the IMF and World Bank would not be able to provide financial assistance to Zimbabwe until the country has cleared its arrears to them.
The IMF said it will meet with Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti and other senior government officials, as well as representatives from the financial, business and diplomatic communities.
A report on the visit will be discussed by the IMF board in early May, the Fund said.
Tsvangarai has warned that the country urgently needs help as inflation has reached more than 200 million percent and rendered Zimbabwe’s currency worthless. 
He also said on Thursday that nearly 4,000 people were killed and up to 80,000 infected since the outbreak six months ago of a cholera epidemic in the country and the deadliest cholera outbreak in Africa in 15 years.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports US President Barack Obama has extended sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying the troubled African nation has not resolved its political crisis.

Obama’s announcement came despite Tsvangirai`s call for an end to Western sanctions.

“The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved,” Obama said in a statement. “These actions and policies pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”

Under the administration of George W. Bush, the United States put sanctions on the government of President Robert Mugabe in 2003. The sanctions, which ban more than 250 Zimbabwean individuals and companies from doing business with the United States, would have expired on Friday if Obama had not extended them.