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Zimbabwe seeks return to dollar as new gov't sworn in

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP) — Zimbabwe's newly sworn-in finance minister on Monday said he planned to reintroduce the Zimbabwe dollar and accelerate plans to repay the country's debt in a bid to revive the battered economy.

The southern African nation abandoned its currency after it spiralled out of control between 2008 and 2009 during the rule of Robert Mugabe.

The country adopted the US greenback and other foreign currencies including the South African rand. But a few years later, with the economy in tatters, US bank notes started to run short.

In 2016, Mugabe's government tried to tackle the chronic shortage of US banknotes by introducing a parallel token currency called “bond notes”, theoretically worth the same as a US dollar.

But the bond notes are in reality worth far less than the US dollar.

“Ultimately, I want to be very clear: I want to see the Zimbabwe dollar come back, the sovereign currency,” finance minister Mthuli Ncube told reporters shortly after he was sworn-in.

Ncube, 55, a former Oxford university professor and a former vice-president of the African Development Bank, has the tough task of reviving an economy wrecked under Mugabe, who was ousted last year.

“But currency reform alone is not adequate; it needs a second leg. It works with fiscal policy.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in after his victory in a landmark July election, vowed to make fixing the economy his priority.

Ncube also vowed to resolve Harare's debt with international institutions.

“We have plans that we want to make sure that the international financial institutions such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank are fully on board to work with us to resolve the arrears,” he said.

On Monday Mnangagwa swore in 20 cabinet ministers, 13 deputy ministers and nine provincial ministers.

The cabinet includes a former Olympic swimmer, Kirsty Coventry, who is the new sports minister.

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