Zimbabwe blocked possible IMF aid abuse: Biti

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti said yesterday he had blocked possible “unprocedural use” of IMF aid allocated to the country under a global assistance agreement for member states hit by a global crisis.
Biti dismissed as “rubbish” reports in state media that he had written to the International Monetary Fund effectively rejecting over $500 million (R3673 million) in IMF special drawing rights extended to Zimbabwe because Harare has external debts of about $5.7 billion (R41 billion), Reuters reports.
“That is rubbish. I did not block (the aid),” he told a news conference he called to address what he termed unjustified excitement over the IMF allocation.
“What I blocked are efforts to unprocedurally convert and to liquidate the SDRs into cash,” Biti charged. But he refused to name the culprits.
Biti, a senior figure of the Movement for Democratic Change opposed to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, has been fighting a bitter turf war with the president’s allies, especially central bank Governor Gideon Gono, since the MDC joined ZANU-PF in a power-sharing government in February.
The IMF said on September 4 that it had transferred around $400 million (R2939 million) in IMF special drawing rights to Zimbabwe under a $250 billion (R1836 billion) agreement to bolster the reserves of the fund’s 186 member countries.
The fund said however it would withhold another $102 million (R749 million) of Zimbabwe’s allocation by placing it in escrow until the country had cleared its $140 million (R1028 million) IMF debt.
Biti said yesterday it was common knowledge that Zimbabwe was broke and had no foreign reserves, and that the economy was struggling to get off the ground after a decade in crisis.
“This is the net position of Zimbabwe and so we have to use any money that we get very carefully, under a proper fiscal plan,” he said.
Biti said he was recommending that the government uses the IMF allocation mainly to rehabilitate Zimbabwe’s dilapidated infrastructure, including roads, water resources, phone and electricity network.
Zimbabwe has suffered a decade of economic meltdown, worsened by the withdrawal of Western funding over policy differences with Mugabe’s previous administration, before he formed the unity government with rival MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister.

Pic: Zimbabwe Finance Minister- Tendai Biti