Zimbabwe central bank denies $700-mn debt repayment

May 14th, 2008 - 10:26 pm ICT by admin  

Harare/Johannesburg, May 14 (DPA) The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Wednesday denied that it recently paid off $700 million in debt to the African Development Bank (AfDB), an announcement that had raised eyebrows given the country’s severe economic woes. Gideon Gono, the bank’s governor, said that if Zimbabwe had that amount of money it would use it to import essential goods that are in short supply in the country.

In a statement sent to state media Gono said: “We wish to categorically state that, to our knowledge, there has not been any such payment.”

“If the country had such resources (of) $700 million, the RBZ would have prioritised the importation of grain, fuel, electricity, medical drugs, industrial chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, water treatment chemicals, agricultural equipment, and other infrastructural development essentials, and of course leaving some for debt service,” he said.

The African Development Bank, in a statement issued Sunday ahead of its annual summit in Mozambique, said that Zimbabwe had paid off $700 million in debt, $650 million of which it said was repaid April 14, two weeks after Zimbabwe’s disputed elections.

The payments were “testimony of the government’s determination to live up to its international financial obligations,” the bank praised.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst-ever economic crisis, characterized by inflation of over 165,000 percent, widespread food shortages and a near-worthless Zimbabwe dollar.

The debt-ridden country, whose President Robert Mugabe is seeking a sixth term in power, owes about $1.1 billion to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.

Mugabe, 84, placed second to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the March 29 presidential elections but is gearing up for a run-off round, which is essential when no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote in the election.

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