HARARE – European Union Ambassador Philippe Van Damme said the President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration needs to start walking the talk on implementing reforms for the country to open up to investment opportunities.
He said without full policy change and implementation of promised reforms, the country faced a difficult year or one worse than last year.
“The international institutions have made some forecasts on growth prospects of this country, the IMF had a forecast a couple of weeks ago of 2,5 percent growth, the World Bank made a forecast of 0,9 percent growth, under the assumption both times that we have steady commodity prices and a good agricultural season. The agricultural season unfortunately doesn’t seem as good as we may have hoped for. So with unchanged policies, these forecasts are probably the upper limits of what can be expected,” Van Damme said at an exchange with journalists in Harare yesterday.
The subdued forecasts by the Bretton Woods institutions sharply contrast with the government’s overly optimistic 4,5 percent on the back of scaled-up agricultural financing, economic reforms and policy interventions as pronounced by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in his 2018 National Budget statement.
The EU envoy, however, said unless the government is pragmatic on its policies, the country would be lucky to register a positive growth rate this year.
“We have heard the incumbent president Mnangagwa and his ministers making strong commitments towards economic reforms, we have heard speeches about indigenisation, land issues, these are all critical elements of a reform agenda which will indeed improve the investment climate in this country and improve the prospects of this country.”
This comes as Mnangagwa will be marking his first appearance at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland in a fortnight’s time, a step towards Zimbabwe’s reintegration into the international community.
Van Damme said the quicker the government moved on the commitments, the better the chance to turn around the economic prospects of the country, as he gave his outlook for 2018.
“ . . . Which are rather bleak right now, but which can dramatically improve. So it’s extremely important that government delivers and starts also engaging with international financial institutions because regardless of the different reforms envisaged, it will also be extremely important for the government to clear its bilateral arrears to engage with the IMF on these reforms so that in the shortest possible time, between now and the end of the year, it can start accessing new funding and access the international capital markets,” he said.