Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Minister of Finance Tendai Biti met with Multi Donor Trust Fund representatives on 16 February to discuss the dire economic situation and the necessary steps to resuscitate the economy.
Biti said the government needed at least US$720 million for the next six months to build its own revenue.
It was going to introduce a short-term economic recovery programme which he described as “mouth-to-mouth resuscitation intended to begin the recovery Process”.
Donors responded by stating that non-humanitarian assistance would be dependent on compliance with the principles of reengagement.
They said immediate confidence-building measures should include the release of political detainees, replacement of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, freeing up the media, and engagement with the International Financial Institutions.
Viewing cable 09HARARE135, ZIM DONOR MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER
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SUBJECT: ZIM DONOR MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER
¶1. (SBU) Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Minister of Finance
Tendai Biti met with Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) representatives
on February 16 to discuss the dire economic situation and to discuss
necessary steps to resuscitate the economy. Tsvangirai focused on
the need to pay civil servants in forex while Biti discussed
short-term and emergency plans. Donors responded by stating that
non-humanitarian assistance would be dependent on compliance with
the principles of reengagement. Immediate confidence-building
measures should include the release of political detainees,
replacement of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
governor, freeing up the media, and engagement with the
International Financial Institutions (IFIs). END SUMMARY.
¶2. (U) Tsvangirai called the meeting on his first full week in
office. Present were representatives, including heads of mission,
from donors, the World Bank, UNDP, and the African Development Bank.
¶3. (SBU) Tsvangirai commented briefly on the dire economic
situaton and presented his priorities: democracy, stabilization,
and humanitarian needs (which include education, health, food, and
both urban and rural poverty). He said that in order for the
government to operate and demonstrate leadership it needed to get
civil servants back to work and pay them in forex.
¶4. (SBU) Biti announced that the government would be presenting its
stabilization plan, Short Term Emergency Plan (STEP), to the cabinet
on February 24. Among the immediate measures were the formation of
a National Economic Council (NEC) (inclusive of NGOs, labor, and the
private sector; and led by the Ministry of Economic Planning and
Investment Promotion). The NEC will be mandated to develop a more
comprehensive medium-term recovery plan with strong stakeholder
involvement and public dialogue.
Short Term Emergency Plan (STEP)
¶5. (SBU) Biti noted that STEP is not transformative. It is, he
said, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation intended to begin the recovery
process. It will need to be followed by a more comprehensive
medium-term economic recovery plan that is vetted with stakeholders
¶6. (SBU) Key elements of the STEP as presented by Biti are[e1]:
¶A. Address humanitarian crisis (including a special focus on
orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) and the urban poor):
¶1. In Education:
a. bring teachers back to work and complete examination
¶2. In Health:
a. improve water and sanitation in cholera affected areas;
b. provide drugs to treat TB;
c. provide blankets, beds and other emergency supplies;
d. increase availability of ARVs for people living with
¶B. Reform RBZ to focus on monetary role and cease all non-monetary
activities. (COMMENT: RBZ reform is generally understood to include
finding a way to replace the current governor. END COMMENT.)
¶1. Ensure the preparation of the winter crop, namely wheat
(100,000 tons needed) and tobacco;
¶2. Ensure security of tenure (land commission to ensure that any
person who wishes to farm shall have the opportunity to get secure
¶3. Develop mechanisms for farmers to access commercial bank
¶1. Facilitate recapitalization;
¶2. Focus on strategic industries (for example fertilizer
¶1. Introduce mechanisms for taxation and royalty that facilitate
operational efficiency and provide income to the State.
¶1. Resuscitation of Beira (Mozambique) Pipeline operations;
¶2. Assess electricity generation and related rail road needs.
¶1. Strengthen local authorities and transfer reticulation and
local management to them.
¶H. Tourism for quick revenue generation.
¶I. Economic policy (demand side)
¶1. Stop printing of money;
¶2. Decision on what currency will be used to maintain Government
¶3. Institute interest regime to promote savings;
¶4. Introduction of non-cash payment systems (Electronic Funds
Transfer at Point of Sale).
¶J. Review Tax Regime and Revenue System with regard to:
¶1. Stock exchange;
¶3. Toll Duties;
¶7. (SBU) Biti explained that the GOZ expects to have, within six
months of initiating STEP, a revenue base from which to draw on. At
present, however, the current tax receipts are only estimated at
US$10 million a month. Therefore, for the next six months the
Government will need bridge funding for recurrent expenditures,
estimated at US$120 million a month, for a total of US$720 million.
This breaks down as follows (amounts stated in USD):
-Basic salary allowances for Civil Servants: $50 million
-Dollarized pensions: $20 million
-Short-term assistance to local authorities: $10 million
-Drugs and other health service costs: $15 million
-Essential supplies for State agencies: $15 million
-Sanitation and water services in urban areas: $10 million
¶8. (SBU) The Government will be discussing this financing gap with
the Republic of South Africa as the first point of entry. GOZ will
later organize donor and investor conferences.
¶9. (SBU) Complementary measures will include the passing of
legislation in relation to:
– Freedom of the press and opening up of air waves
(to be administered by a national press coordinating and oversight
– Preparation for the new constitution based on a public discourse;
– Adherence to basic laws (freedom of expression, movement,
– Governance and gender inclusiveness.
¶10. (SBU) The Minister of Finance also noted that a revised budget
will be prepared that will separate humanitarian and recurrent
budget requirements and revise recent budget figures announced by
the Ministry of Finance in January. He also clarified that the
salary requirements included in the emergency plan include all civil
service, military and police.
Donors Response – Remember the Principals
¶11. (SBU) The donors’ response was provided by the Norwegian
ambassador as chair of the Heads of Mission and the DFID director as
chair of the Aid Agency Heads. While welcoming change in Zimbabwe,
they reminded Tsvangirai and Biti of the principles of reengagement.
They noted that many of the government’s requirements are now being
fulfilled through humanitarian assistance. Acknowledging the new
government’s budgetary needs, and constraints on donors to provide
direct support for the budget, they asked about possible regional
support for the budget. They also suggested that it was important
for the Ministry of Finance to assess its own resources to meet
current and future needs. To prepare for more direct support,
donors needed to see confidence building events – freeing political
Qdetainees, reorganization of the RBZ, freeing up the media, and
reengagement with the IFIs. Possibly donors and the GOZ needed to
look at two phases: one of enhanced emergency assistance and
another longer-term period of larger and longer-term support. The
donors’ representatives cautioned that it was important to take
careful stock of needs, and to get it right.
¶12. (SBU) Tsvangirai responded that he understood the need to build
confidence and that there are rules to budget support. What he
hoped to do in this meeting, he said, was define the menu and then
look for the appropriate ingredients. If some of those are not
available, the government would have to adjust or look elsewhere.
He commented that reengagement with the IFIs at this time would be
Sink or Swim
¶13. (SBU) The new government is clearly struggling to get its feet
on the ground and locate its offices. Meanwhile they are trying to
take up the issues that have been handed to them when they joined
the government and accepted critical ministries, such as finance,
under less than ideal conditions, e.g. the continuing tenure of
Gono. There is no backup to the ministers themselves t this point
with little trust for the staffs that they have inherited and they
have little experience running a ministry.
¶14. (SBU) While satisfactory compliance with the principles of
reengagement will take time, donors are frustrated by the failure of
the government – primarily the fault of ZANU-PF – to take some
fundamental confidence-building measures to demonstrate the
commitment of the government to reform. These measures include the
release of political detainees, some of whom have been in custody
since the end of October, and the release of recently detained
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Designate Roy Bennett.
¶15. (SBU) The donor community is mindful of not stepping over the
line between providing essential humanitarian assistance and bailing
out the Mugabe regime. Nevertheless, if transitional assistance is
not provided to the new leadership, in the form of technical
assistance and advisory services, the new government is sure to
flounder. In particular, advisory services to the Ministry of
Finance are urgently needed to encourage and prepare it for
reengagement with the IMF as a critical first step. Assistance is
also required to help in unraveling the wage bill and determining
available resources and requirements in order to rationalize
short-term budgets and requests. END COMMENT.
[e1]You can’t use the automatic bullets or even tabs, etc in a
telegram – you have to space over manually and put in your own