Mining to anchor Zimbabwe as finance minister says Covid-19 impact less than feared

Mthuli Ncube, finance minister, Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE’S economy would not be as badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as initially feared, said Reuters citing the comments of Mthuli Ncube, the southern African country’s finance minister.

Ncube added that the economy would be anchored by its mining and agriculture sectors.

“I am more bullish again even during this Covid-19 moment, I think the economy will surprise us on the upside,” said Ncube during an online media conference. “Our prognosis is that the impact of Covid-19 overall on Zimbabwe is not as deep as in other countries.”

The government had made significant progress on economic reforms, including cutting its wage bill from 92% of the total budget in 2017 to below 50% now and had stopped printing money and stabilised the exchange rate, said Reuters citing Ncube.

On the ground, ordinary Zimbabweans are suffering, however. The country was grappling with runaway inflation, shortages of drugs in hospitals and strikes by public workers before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in March.

Electricity tariffs also rose 50% last week, which would feed into inflation, said Reuters.  Ncube defended the increase saying that it was necessary to keep the state power company viable and enable it to pay coal suppliers.

The government would resume token payments to creditors like the World Bank and African Development Bank, which it owes more than $1bn, Ncube said.