We never said privatise social services: IMF

international_monetary_fundHARARE The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it has never dictated to Zimbabwe which parastatals to privatise, dismissing claims by a local group of non-governmental organisations that the Bretton Woods institution should shoulder blame for some of the economic hardships experienced by Zimbabweans during the past few year

Director of the IMFs External Relations Department, Caroline Atkinson, said last week that the Fund had never taken a position in favour or against a particular privatisation in Zimbabwe, often leaving the decision to the Harare authorities.

We generally dont take a position in favour or against a particular privatization. What, Im sure were very strongly in favour of in Zimbabwe is the building up of a strong social services network which is important for the poor and vulnerable in that country, Atkinson said.

She was responding to claims by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) that IMF recommendations to Zimbabwe to privatise some of the state enterprises had impacted negatively on efforts to uplift living standards of Zimbabweans.

NANGO, an umbrella body for Zimbabwes NGOs, criticised the IMF for recommending policies that are anti-people and negative.

It cited some of the IMF-instigated polices that had brought suffering to the people were the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST).

The NGO body said the Zimbabwe government should be allowed to reserve the right to determine public policies that benefit its people.

The IMF has since 2000 recommended the privatisation of loss-making parastatals such as ZISCO and a cut in excess spending as some of the ways in which the Harare authorities could stop the free-fall in the countrys economy.

Zimbabwe, once an African model economy, has grappled with a decade-long economic crisis blamed on mismanagement by President Robert Mugabes government and which manifested itself in 10-digit inflation, shortages of foreign currency, food, fuel and rising unemployment.

Zimbabwe has twice survived being axed from the IMF over arrears, which stood at $133 million at the end of August.

Analysts say only political reforms, along with fundamental economic changes, could ease the plight of a population that faces a collapsing infrastructure and deteriorating standards of living.

Zimbabwe has had strained relations with the West over policy differences, such as the seizure of white-owned commercial farms to redistribute among blacks, which critics say has destroyed commercial agriculture and worsened food shortages.

The southern African country has been without IMF balance-of-payments support and direct donor funding since 1999.

Post published in: World News

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