Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forums Africa meeting in Cape Town, Zimbabwe Public Works Minister Theresa Makone told reporters that the southern African country needed the huge cash injection because public works require vast capital outlays.
“I think (we initially need) upwards of $2 billion, because we are looking at construction of roads, dams and those kind of things, which take up a lot of money,” said Makone.
Once a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis and food shortages that President Robert Mugabe blames on poor weather and Western sanctions he says have hampered importation of fertilizers, seed, and other farming inputs.
Critics blame Zimbabwe’s troubles on repression and wrong polices by Mugabe such as his land reforms that displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers leading to a massive drop in farm production.
Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in February formed a unity government under a power sharing deal brokered last year by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of SADC.
The government has appealed for international support amounting to US$10 billion under an economic recovery blueprint Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) which among other key objectives aims to improve food security, resuscitate public health, education and the manufacturing sector.
Under the inclusive government, Zimbabwe has halted its spectacular economic collapse, abandoning its worthless currency and easing price controls, which has brought food back on to shop shelves.
But with state coffers empty, high unemployment, more than half the population surviving on international food aid and some squabbles still dogging the unity government, the country remains mired in crisis.
Tsvangirai is currently on a three-week visit to American and European capitals attempting to drum up financial support for the power-sharing government from key Western donors who are demanding that the government carry out far reaching political and media reforms and bring an end to a fresh wave of farm invasions before they consider releasing any money.
Makone said resuscitating the countrys public works will centre on building new schools, hospitals and government offices at the same time creating jobs after the decade-long recession left less than half a million people in the country formally employed out of a population of 12 million.
“If we create 4 million jobs within the next 12 to 18 months, we would have done stupendously well,” she said.
The United Nations has estimated that Zimbabwes economy has shrunk by more than 45 percent over the past five years, leaving half of the country’s urban population relying on remittances from an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the southern African country would require more than US$40 billion to stabilise the country and restore it to mid 1990s level when the country was the second largest economy in southern Africa after South Africa.