PRESIDENT Mnangagwa is in Egypt for African Development Bank (AfDB) meetings.
He and his team will take advantage of the events to outline his administration’s strategy to resolve the national debt and arrears to international financiers and creditors. A roundtable to that effect is scheduled for tomorrow night.
AfDB president, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, the keyman in the country’s efforts to negotiate with its creditors to ease the debt burden, was in Harare last week as part of the consultations.
He estimated the country’s bilateral and multilateral debt at US$8,3 billion. Weighed down by Western sanctions, frequent droughts and other shocks since 2000, the economy’s capacity to maintain its debt servicing schedule is curtailed.
Citing the debt, bilateral and multilateral funders are refusing to lend to the country. Of course, observers indicate that the primary reason why the lenders are overlooking our country is not really about the debt and the arrears, but sanctions.
The US put it in black and white in their sanctions law — Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act — which binds Americans sitting on boards of multilateral financial institutions to veto any proposals to lend to our country.
Be that as it may, the debt has become unsustainable for our economy.
Indeed, the Government has already covered much ground to that end. It appointed Mr Adesina the debt champion mid-last year.
His role is to facilitate high-level dialogues bringing together the creditors and the Government. He is being assisted by former Mozambique President, Mr Joachim Chissano.
In addition to the key appointments, the Government has hosted four high-level meetings, with the latest one happening in Harare on Monday.
Speaking at that event, President Mnangagwa emphasized his administration’s commitment to implement economic and governance reforms. He reiterated that the forthcoming harmonised elections will be free and fair.
Mr Adesina disclosed that he and Mr Chissano, early this month, met some US congressman, who expressed their support for the dialogues that the Government is convening, and committed to consider recommending lifting the sanctions if they are happy with the progress of the talks.
So, this week presents yet another opportunity for President Mnangagwa to push for the easing of the debt burden on the country.
We implore him and his team and the debt champion, Mr Adesina to intensify their engagement with the country’s creditors, explaining to them how the liabilities are hampering economic recovery and growth, the Government’s commitment and practical steps it is taking to find a way out of the situation and what the creditors must do to complement the very credible work that is on the ground.
“Zimbabwe cannot run up the hill of economic recovery carrying a backpack of debt on its back,” Mr Adesina said on Monday.
“It is time for a comprehensive debt arrears clearance and debt resolution for Zimbabwe.”
The debt champion put his mission into perspective most eloquently. This will be his message tomorrow, the President’s message that must receive a positive response from the lenders so the external debt is eased for the economy to recover and grow more sustainably.