Zimbabwe vows bold economic turnaround despite surging prices
By Simon Robinson DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's finance minister painted an optimistic outlook for his country on Tuesday, despite protests over fuel prices that human rights groups say have left at least a dozen people dead. Mthuli Ncube told Reuters that in the next year he hoped to bring inflation under 10 percent from 42 percent now, find the money to cover debt payments of $1.2 billion, and introduce a new currency. He also talked up a privatisation programme that has so far seen little real progress.
By Simon Robinson
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's finance minister painted an optimistic outlook for his country on Tuesday, despite protests over fuel prices that human rights groups say have left at least a dozen people dead.
Mthuli Ncube told Reuters that in the next year he hoped to bring inflation under 10 percent from 42 percent now, find the money to cover debt payments of $1.2 billion, and introduce a new currency.
He also talked up a privatisation programme that has so far seen little real progress.
“Zimbabwe is the best buy in Africa right now,” he said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Zimbabwe is facing its most serious economic crisis in a decade. Shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency are testing the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was voted into power after the overthrow of Robert Mugabe in 2017.
The government recently raised the price of fuel, which sparked protests across the country. Human rights groups say Zimbabwean security forces used live ammunition to quell them.
Ncube, a former banker whose appointment last year was meant to signal a new focus on the economy, said Mnangagwa had issued “a very clear statement to say that violence is really not allowed, that violence is un-Zimbabwean on both sides”.
He said any abuses by the security forces would be punished.
“It is precisely because of the opening up of the democratic space that this (the protests) has happened,” he said.
“There is only one centre of power which is the president. Everyone is behind him.”
Zimbabwe owes US$7.4 billion in external debt and needs to pay $1.2 billion of that in 2019, most of it to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Ncube says he is speaking to G7 countries to find a way to make those payments.
Neighbouring South Africa has recently raised the possibility of financial aid for Zimbabwe. Ncube said he would welcome anything they could offer.
One of the country's biggest problems is the dysfunctional currency market. For the past few years Zimbabwe has used an electronic dollar that is officially pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. The black market rate is around four-to-one.
Ncube wants to introduce a new domestic currency within a year. That process, he said, might involve a change to the official rate because it was impossible to completely deal with “the distortions that continue to fester”.
Ncube said a trip that he and President Mnangagwa just took to Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia had provided ideas that Zimbabwe was keen to copy, especially on managing natural resources and using the proceeds to fund development.
“We were pleasantly impressed, very impressed, and anyone should be,” he said. “If you go to Astana (the Kazakh capital) you will be just blown away.”
(Editing by Mark Bendeich)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.