Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s state-owned electricity distributor, grappling with drought and ageing equipment, said on Thursday it will disconnect mines, farms and other users as it looks to recover $77 million in unpaid bills, Reuters reported. The southern African nation is experiencing daily power cuts lasting up to 18 hours after a severe drought reduced water levels at the country’s biggest hydro plant. The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is also being hampered by ageing coal-fired electricity generators which constantly break down.

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Zimbabwe’s central bank said it would stop printing money as part of a milestone deal with the IMF, which has agreed to monitor vital currency reforms in the southern African nation, the Financial Times reported. Under the terms of an IMF staff-monitored programme announced on Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will cease borrowing from the central bank to pay its bills, a practice that has exacerbated Zimbabwe’s debilitating currency crisis.

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Zimbabwe’s central bank has secured a $500 million loan from unspecified international banks to support interbank currency trading from Monday and ease a dollar crunch that has brought fuel and medicine shortages, Governor John Mangudya said, Reuters reported. The central bank introduced a new local currency in February, the RTGS dollar, and launched an interbank trading platform where businesses and individuals could buy and sell U.S. dollars. But dollars have been scarce on the official market, where a U.S. dollar fetches 3.4 RTGS dollars compared to 6.3 RTGS dollars on the black market.

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Zimbabwe has reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a program of economic policies and structural reforms that could pave the way to the crisis-hit country re-engaging with international financial institutions, Reuters reported. Suffering from decades of decline and hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999, when it started defaulting on its debt. It has arrears of around $2.2 billion with the World Bank, the African Development Bank and European Investment Bank.

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Zimbabwe’s lenders, which include units of Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Ecobank Ltd., appealed to the central bank to raise interest rates that have been capped at 12 percent for the past two years, saying this would increase lending in the collapsing economy, Bloomberg News reported. They also proposed that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduce an overnight rate to facilitate lending between financial institutions and the central bank, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe submissions seen by Bloomberg show.

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Zimbabwe’s government dropped its insistence that a quasi-currency known as bond notes are at par with the dollar as it overhauled foreign-exchange trading and effectively devalued the securities, Bloomberg News reported. The measures are a step toward trying to create a new currency and stabilize Zimbabwe’s economy, which has been plunged into crisis as a shortage of foreign currency stoked the fastest increase in consumer prices in more than a decade and caused shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

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Not having a currency of its own hasn’t stopped Zimbabwe from sliding into a currency crisis, Bloomberg News reported. A scarcity of foreign exchange has led to long queues for fuel, bread and medicine and sent prices surging across the southern African country. Police clashed with protesters in the capital, Harare, on Monday as the main trade-union group started a strike after the government more than doubled gasoline prices to $3.31 a liter ($12.58 a gallon) over the weekend, the highest in the world, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

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The World Bank and IMF have endorsed Zimbabwe’s plan to clear $2.2 billion in arrears to international creditors, the finance minister said on Wednesday, but U.S. sanctions may still prevent fresh loans to support the rebuilding of a shattered economy, Reuters reported. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to revive the economy, pay foreign debts that the country has defaulted on since 1999 and end the international pariah status that Zimbabwe acquired under Robert Mugabe’s near four-decade rule.
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The African Development Bank said it’s working with Zimbabwe’s government to find a “sustainable solution” to settle its debt arrears and enable the state to start borrowing again, Bloomberg News reported. Zimbabwe owes multilateral lenders about $1.8 billion. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said he plans to prioritize the repayment of the loans as he sets about rebuilding an economy destabilized by almost two decades of mismanagement under his predecessor Robert Mugabe. Central bank Governor John Mangudya said last week he expects the arrears to be cleared by September 2019.
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Britain will support Zimbabwe to get on to an interim IMF staff program to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears, Britain's ambassador in Harare said on Tuesday. Clearing the $1.8 billion in arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank is seen as a major step for Zimbabwe to start accessing foreign credit, especially for the private sector as well as foreign direct investment, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story.
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