I’ve Been In Govt For 38 Years And I Can Tell You Mthuli Ncube Is Brilliant, Says ED

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa has hailed Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube achieving a budget surplus for the country for the first time since independence.

In an interview with Bloomberg, while he was in Mozambique for the United States-Africa summit, Mnangagwa said: “I’ve been in government for 38 years as a minister and I can’t remember when you ever had a budget surplus.

“Now, this young man has been able to achieve a budget surplus in less than eight months. So it tells me that what he tells me is possibly true on these issues.”

Ncube’s austerity measures have generated despair among the generality of the citizenry.

With no salary increment for civil servants for many years, coupled with galloping inflation and punitive taxes, the announcement of a budget surplus has been met with scorn.

The government last month agreed on measures to re-engage with the IMF for the first time in more than a decade. Under the arrangement, known as a staff-monitored program, the fund will assess government’s economic progress by the end of January, Ncube, 56, said in the interview.

Asked if Zimbabwe would seek financing from the IMF next year, Ncube said: “Why not? We can only ask, they can only say no. But if we can get funding from the IMF that would be fantastic. Just additional support on our balance-of-payments position.”

And on the possibility of selling dollar debt thereafter: “It’s possible, I would say late next year. At the moment you cannot go into the Eurobond market, which is commercial debt, while you still owe concessional debt. It doesn’t work like that.”

“So that’s the sequence. Once we have cleared this, at least the preferred creditors in February — the IMFWorld Bank and the European Investment Bank — then after that point we can go into the market.”

Zimbabwe’s economy grew by an estimated 3.4% last year, according to the IMF, which projects a 2.1% contraction in 2019. Growth will probably be flat this year as a power shortage curbs output, according to Ncube.

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