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 report reviews developments in the implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). It also provides updates on debt service and poverty-reducing expenditure by beneficiary countries, as well as on the cost of debt relief, creditor participation rates, and litigation against HIPCs.
This paper discusses the Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) for Zimbabwe and highlights that the new government that assumed office following the July 2018 elections is committed to addressing the macroeconomic imbalances, removing structural distortions to facilitate a resumption in growth, and to re-engaging with the international community including by clearing its external arrears. The SMP will be monitored on a quarterly basis and is intended to assist the authorities in building a track record of implementation of a coherent set of economic and social policies that can facilitate a return to macroeconomic stability and assist in reengagement with the international community. With limited access to external financing and the very low level of international reserves, the authorities’ room for manoeuvre is very narrow. There are also significant implementation risks of the monetary and exchange rate reforms, as well as addressing governance and corruption weaknesses, which could adversely impact the attainment of SMP objectives.
1. President Mnangagwa—who headed the transitional government following the resignation of former President Mugabe in November 2017—secured a narrow majority in the July 30, 2018 elections. The ZANU-PF party that has ruled since independence, retained its large majority in Parliament, winning 66 percent of seats with staunch support coming from rural communities, its traditional stronghold. The pre-election period and election day were viewed by international observers as mostly peaceful, free, and fair. The violent repression of protests that occurred on August 1, 2018 and January 24, 2019 were universally condemned by the international community, setting back Zimbabwe’s efforts to re-engage with its external partners.
This Technical Assistance Report discusses that the authorities are making some progress towards higher quality and more comprehensive Government Finance Statistics, however, sufficient information for meaningful monitoring and surveillance of the public sector in Zimbabwe should be considered a long-term goal with several remaining challenges. The government of Zimbabwe has recently embarked upon an ambitious reform program for public sector corporations, which is expected to lead to a dramatic reduction in government balance sheet risk via contingent liabilities and the direct fiscal impact arising from the high likelihood of those guarantees being called. The report also highlights that the Accountant General office should have the ability to set a standardized format and the required information for general government financial statements which are to be reported for all subsectors and ministries. The mission recommends that the authorities review compliance with Republic of Zimbabwe Public Finance Management Act of 2009 across general government subsectors, including, all local government units, Extrabudgetary Units funds and social security funds.