Monday, December 30, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) France likelyX to cancel Zimbabwe debt
05/11/2013 00:00:00
by Gilbert Nyambabvu

ZIMBABWE has been named among the so-called highly indebted poor countries likely to benefit from debt cancelations by the French government next year.

France’s social economy minister Benoît Hamon confirmed the plan Tuesday, saying: "In 2014, an estimated five countries could see their debt completely erased: Somalia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Ivory Coast and Sudan.

“The debt relief is almost immediate, since we are transferring loans made in the past into donations".

It could not be established how much Zimbabwe owes France but the country is chocking under a debt pile estimated at more than $10 billion

The obligations include some $3 billion owed to the Paris Club, about $2 billion to the World Bank and US$600m to the African Development Bank.

Direct support to the government all but vanished after 2002 when western countries imposed sanctions against Harare over allegations of vote fraud and human rights abuses which are denied by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party.

Mugabe believes former coloniser Britain coerced allies to gang-up and punish his administration for its land reforms which he insists were needed to address historic imbalances in the ownership of the key resource.

The veteran leader, who is banned from travelling to western capitals under the sanctions, recently appealed to France to end the strictures which he blames for the country’s economic problems.

"Can France have a national introspection and see whether it's right to continue to pursue the policy of sanctions against Zimbabwe," Mugabe said last month while meeting diplomats from France, Germany and Holland.

"We must now look at the future and the need for sanctions to go. We want the removal of economic sanctions so we can export beef to Europe. Let's get to trade.

"We do not want to visit France. I do not want your girls. I do not want to visit France for romantic purposes. I want to develop relations between us.”

The French government is expected cancel $2.42 billion of poor countries’ debt in its 2014 budget, up from $819 million the year before.

Countries in the French debt cancellation programme continue to pay their debt back to France but when the refund is completed, France transfers the corresponding amount back by assigning it to programmes to fight poverty.

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