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Zimbabwe : World Bank Says 'We have failed'

by Rangarirai ShokoPanafrican News Agency (Dakar)
April 11th, 2001

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- A World Bank official admitted Wednesday the institution's policies in Zimbabwe had failed, ironically blaming the failure on the government's willingness to follow its instructions as "per book."

World Bank Representative to Zimbabwe, Rogier van den Brink, told a seminar on Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative, that the policies the Bretton Woods institution had prescribed to the government had failed to stimulate the economy and improve the social lives of the people.

"I have been asked by ministers, ordinary people and business people whether our policies have worked and I really have to admit that we have failed," he said.

The World Bank concentrated on funding social development programmes in Zimbabwe, while its counterpart, the International Monetary Fund, mainly looked at fiscal and other economic policy issues.

Van den Brink said Zimbabwe's economy, which is experiencing its worst crisis characterised by shortages of foreign currency and a record high inflation, can only be nursed to growth through stimulating the small and medium scale business sectors and carrying through land reforms to boost agriculture.

"What Zimbabwe needs are small to medium enterprises. There is also need for ideal partnership between the government and labour if the economy is to be revived," he said.

"In my view, the real revival of the economy lies in agriculture. Currently most of the arable and fertile land is in the hands of only one percent of the total population. If land is equitably distributed, we will definitely see a change in the economy," he added.

But the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral donors have criticised Zimbabwe for carrying out a controversial land reform programme in which idle land was being taken over from white farmers to resettle landless blacks.

More than 75,000 landless peasants have so far been resettled on re-possessed land since last year, and the government says it plans to move a total of half a million people on more than five million hectares of land to be taken from white farmers.

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