Saturday, October 22, 2016

Zimbabwe Pays Off IMF Arrears
October 22, 2016
Enacy Mapakame Business Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwe has cleared its arrears with the International Monetary Fund as part of efforts to settle its overdue financial obligations to the multilateral institution.This is a milestone in the country’s endeavour to attract fresh capital.

The IMF said Zimbabwe, which had been in arrears since 2001, last Thursday settled its obligations, amounting to $107,9 million to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.

The IMF said Zimbabwe transferred part of its SDR holdings kept at the IMF to the PRGT account to clear the arrears.

“Zimbabwe is now current on all its financial obligations to the IMF,” said IMF communications director Mr Gerry Rice in a statement.

In his Mid-Term Monetary Policy Statement presented last month, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya indicated significant progress had been made towards the re-engagement process to clear the country’s external debt arrears with multilateral financial institutions.

Indications were that Zimbabwe would have cleared arrears by year end.

“Significant work has been recorded to ensure that the country clears its arrears by 31 December 2016. It is critical to note that it is Zimbabwe that owes multilateral and bilateral creditors and not vice versa,” he said.

As at September 2016, the country’s arrears to the IFIs totalled $1,8 billion. Of this, the IMF accounted for $110 million, AfDB- $601 million, IDA- $218 million and IBRD at $896 million.

Dr Mangudya could not be reached for comment as he is away on business in Germany.

External debt arrears clearance will improve Zimbabwe’s country risk premium through reducing its debt overhang.

This will also enhance the country’s access to foreign finance.

Economist Dr Gift Mugano said although Zimbabwe still needs to meet financial obligations with other MFIs such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, this was a step in the right direction.

“The issue of debt overhang has been serious and our relations with these institutions have been bad because of that,” said Dr Mugano.

“The IMF and WB are like international ‘commissioners of oath’ in business confidence and if we do not pay them they can give us a tag which is bad and difficult to shake off,” he said.

He added, under normal circumstances, the country should be getting fresh capital from the IMF.

However, the multilateral lender does not operate in isolation, said Dr Mugano, as it is still controlled by the world’s super powers with significant voting rights and bias against Zimbabwe.

“It is not a straight jacket,” he said.

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