Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday said he had shocked ministry officials by declaring his “love” for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), multilateral organisations seen as hostile to President Robert Mugabe’s government.
The IMF and World Bank have not given direct financial support to Harare for over a decade after the country, saddled with a debt of close to $10 billion, defaulted on loan repayments.
Mugabe famously likened the IMF to the devil in a 2006 interview on state television as relations between his government, Western states and the Bretton Woods institutions reached a nadir after they withdrew aid, citing poor governance and mounting arrears.
But the Zimbabwean government insists support was withdrawn primarily on political rather than financial reasons after the country’s fallout with the United States and the European Union (EU), countries that are major shareholders in the two multilateral institutions.
Both the US and the EU imposed sanctions on the country over 10 years ago, although the latter has been gradually easing the embargo over the years.
Chinamasa, who was addressing industrialists at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries 2015 Economic Outlook Symposium, said the World Bank and the IMF’s analysis of the Zimbabwean economy helped to give him a true picture of the country’s affairs.
“I surprised officials in my ministry when I told them that I love the IMF and the World Bank,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
“Yes, I have fallen in love with the World Bank and the IMF. They provide us with very good analysis (of the economy). It resonates well with my own background as a lawyer. It allows us to deal with facts.”
Both the IMF and the World Bank were represented at the symposium which was also attended by industry minister Mike Bimha, indigenisation minister Chris Mushowe and mines minister Walter Chidhakwa.
Chinamasa, however, said he only differed with the two institutions on what to do with the said facts.
The IMF last September re-opened its offices in Harare which had been closed for over 10 years in a show of thawing relations.
The organisation is also helping the country implement a Staff Monitored Programme, an informal agreement for dialogue between a member country and the fund, which if successfully implemented can help restore normal relations with the international community.
Christian Beddes, the IMF representative said the fund was working on mending relations with the government.
“We have no financial involvement with Zimbabwe at the moment but we are in the process of trying to fix that,” he said, adding the IMF was currently providing technical assistance to Harare.
He said the country owed the IMF over $120 million.