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Zimbabwe minister of finance Tendai Biti

Mining to drive Zim growth: Biti

Reuters | Thu, 24 Nov 2011 17:04

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[] -- ZIMBABWE'S economy is likely to continue its strong recovery next year from a decade of decline, posting GDP growth of 9.4% compared with an estimated 9.3% this year, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in his budget on Thursday.

The performance was underpinned by expansion in the finance, mining, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and transport sectors, Biti said.

Despite controversy and confusion over a move by the unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to boost local black ownership of mining firms, Biti said the sector attracted $502m of investment in 2011.

Zimbabwe is home to the world's second-biggest deposits of platinum, as well as vast reserves of gold, diamonds and coal.

Reflecting the gradual recovery in mining output, Biti said gold production should more than double to 28 tonnes next year, while diamond sales would total $600m, netting the impoverished state more than $120m in dividends.

Despite the formation of the unity government in early 2009, most Western nations and investors are keeping the southern African nation at arm's length while Mugabe remains at the helm.

Mugabe has been hit with international sanctions for suspected human rights abuses and vote rigging.

Consequently, Harare has been unable to attract even a small portion of the vast sums needed to rebuild infrastructure that has fallen into disrepair since the economy went into a hyperinflated tailspin from 2000.

However, Biti said Harare had attracted aid commitments worth $618m for next year, compared with just $370m in 2011.

The agriculture sector is also recovering from a slump triggered by Mugabe's seizure about a decade ago of white-owned farms to give to landless blacks.

Biti said 2012 maize production should hit 1.8 million tonnes from 1.45 million this year. That figure is still below the 2 million tonnes analysts say are needed to feed the country's 13 million people.

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