Pay your debts! US envoy tells Harare

Source: Pay your debts! US envoy tells Harare – NewZimbabwe 16/06/2016

THE economic crisis which has brought Zimbabwe to its knees has nothing to do with United States sanctions but the failure by President Robert Mugabe’s government to pay the country’s debts.

Debt default had ruined Harare’s credit worthiness even before the US passed its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Reform Agenda (ZIDERA) of 2001, Washington’s new envoy said in the capital on Thursday.

Mugabe also conceded the bad debtor problem at a meeting with war veterans in April, saying: “We’ve a disease in Zimbabwe, that of receiving and forgetting that debt should be settled.”

The veteran leader added: “When you borrow … you must realise that you’ve an obligation to pay tomorrow.

“That must sink in our minds. It has, I’m afraid, and I must admit, it hasn’t sunk in the minds of my ministers yet. Not in the minds of my civil servants.”

Zimbabwe’s ministry of finance says the country’s total public and publicly guaranteed external debt stood at $7.1 billion as of December 2015; and $5.6 billion (79 percent) is in arrears.

The government has developed a plan to repay arrears on the debt which received backing from creditors and development partners at the 2015 annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Lima, Peru.

Ambassador Harry Thomas Jnr rejected President Mugabe’s oft-repeated refrain that sanctions are responsible for an economic crisis that has lasted more than a decade, leaving industries shut down and unemployment estimated at close to 90 percent.

Dramatic change

He was speaking at a public discussion marking his first 100 days as President Barack Obama’s man in Harare.

“I was in Zimbabwe twenty-five years ago; but this time, things have changed dramatically,” said the envoy.

“The dire economic situation in Zimbabwe right now is not because of the targeted restrictions on selected government officials, as they say.

“ … before even the ZIDERA bill was passed, Zimbabwe had already ruined its credit worthiness by failing to repay the money it owes to international financial institutions.”

He continued; “Today, when someone goes to hospital to access health services and fails to get drugs, surely you cannot say it is USA sanctions, as they call them.

“The problem is that the government of Zimbabwe is failing to address the real issues affecting the country.”

The envoy was responding to a question by former ruling Zanu PF legislator Themba Mliswa who said the sanctions – imposed to punish rights abuses and electoral fraud – were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans.

Despite the sanctions, the US had continued providing humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe while trade between the two countries had also increased.

Zimbabwe must reform

Obama’s government has committed more that $55 million towards humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe this year alone while Harare also enjoys a trade surplus with the US.

The European Union has since lifted its own sanctions against Harare but Ambassador Thomas the Washington was not minded to follow suit just yet.

“The decision to lift sanction rests on President Obama because ZIDERA has been passed by the senate hence its law and binding; so when there is need to lift them the president will sit with Senate and deliberate the issue,” he said.

“What the Zimbabwean government should be concerned now is to consider financial and political reforms and commit to implementing the constitution of the country because it is the Zimbabwean people’s constitution …

“(Government should also work towards) curbing corruption; the judiciary has to be independent and there is also need to reform the indigenisation policy which has deterred foreign direct investment which the country needs.”

He added: “USA values the democracy as the right and sovereign of other country`s political decisions, that’s why I would want to emphasize that we do not fund political parties but, give humanitarian assistance to the affected people.”