Zimbabwe experienced severe exogenous shocks (cyclone Idai, protracted drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic) during 2019-20, which along with policy missteps in 2019, led to a deep recession and high inflation. Real GDP contracted cumulatively by 11.7 percent during 2019-20 and inflation reached 837 percent (y/y) by July 2020. Reflecting good rainfall and relaxation of containment measures, real GDP rose by 6.3 percent in 2021. A tighter policy stance since mid-2020 (relative to 2019) has contributed to reducing inflation to 60.7 percent (y/y) at end-2021. However, high double-digit inflation and wide parallel foreign exchange (FX) market premia persist. The economic downturn and high inflation increased the financial system vulnerabilities. Extreme poverty has risen and about a third of the population is at risk of food insecurity. The international community seeks improvements in domestic political conditions and economic policies to initiate reengagement with Zimbabwe. The authorities have started token payments to external creditors in a bid to revive international reengagement.
1. Several factors have interacted to propel fragility in Zimbabwe and undermine economic and social outcomes (Annex I). Periods of strong growth were not sustained owing to climatic and health shocks, as well as policies that fueled economic imbalances, distorted prices, promoted rent-seeking, and weakened competitiveness. In the 2000s, a challenging land reform and an HIV/AIDs epidemic, accompanied by weak institutions, exacerbated the output decline. Per capita income lags its peak and that of sub-Saharan Africa and extreme poverty has risen sharply. On the positive side, human development has caught up with and surpasses that of peers.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation focuses on Zimbabwe’s near- and medium-term challenges and policy priorities and was prepared before COVID-19 became a global pandemic that has resulted in unprecedented strains in global trade, commodity, and financial markets. It, therefore, does not reflect the implications of these developments and related policy priorities. The outbreak has greatly amplified uncertainty and downside risks around the outlook. The IMF staff is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work on assessing its impact and the related policy response in Zimbabwe and globally. With another poor harvest expected, growth in 2020 is projected at near zero, following a sharp contraction in 2019, with food shortages continuing. With no progress on clearing longstanding external arrears, the authorities face a difficult balance of pursuing tight monetary, to reduce very high inflation, and fiscal policies to address the macroeconomic imbalances and build confidence in the currency, while averting a crisis. Pressures are mounting to increase spending on wages and for social protection to mitigate the impact of the weather shocks and high inflation. While the 2020 budget includes a significant increase in social spending, it is likely insufficient to meet the pressing needs.