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Economist optimistic

One of Zimbabwe’s leading economists has said he expected the country to gradually return to normality after the parliamentary elections this weekend.

Eric Bloch, who is based in the country’s second city, Bulawayo, told IRIN on Wednesday the main issue facing a new government would be to resolve the country’s decades-old land ownership crisis which has been highlighted by the occupation of more than 1,400 white-owned farms by independence war veterans and supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Our present economic crisis cannot be blamed on this government alone,” he said. “It dates back to the break-up in 1961 of the then British Federation which incorporated modern-day Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe and exchange control regulations which have been in force on and off since then.”

He said compensation paid to war veterans in 1997 was a key factor behind a 76 percent drop in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar against the US dollar. And lately the country’s dire foreign currency shortage had been exacerbated by the cost of Zimbabwe’s military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which he said had cost the country an estimated US $1 million a day.

A new government, he said, would have to tackle inflation currently running at 60 percent and bring the deficit to below 5 percent of GDP.

“The priority of the ruling party, which is the government of Zimbabwe, right now is how to keep the support it has, and every decision lately has been taken with that in mind, irrespective of the consequences,” he said. “Then once the elections are out of the way, whether this government or the opposition wins, they will have to get the economy right. Otherwise they face the risk of revolution because people are restless and unhappy and in Zimbabwe at present, over 72 percent of people are living below the poverty datum line.”

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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