By Kuda Chideme, HARARE, June 22 (The Source) – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations (UN) agency, says it is ready to resume lending to the capital-starved country next year if Harare settles arrears which are estimated at $40 million, an official has said.
Zimbabwe has been a member of the 178-member fund since independence, receiving technical and financial assistance for several smallholder irrigation projects in the rural areas but IFAD cut off the support in 2006 because of non-payment of arrears.
Harare’s external debt to several development agencies and lenders is estimated at $9 billion, mostly arrears while Western nations, who accuse President Robert Mugabe’s government of election rigging and human rights abuses, have restricted funding to charities since 2002.
Donours, who fund health, agriculture and governance projects through UN agencies, have pledged $468 million to Zimbabwe this year, down from $737 million in 2014.
IFAD regional director Sana Jatta, who is the country, on Monday told journalists at a press briefing that IFAD could resume assistance to Zimbabwe as soon as next year if it repays the arrears.
“If we can be able to resolve the arrears question by 2016 you will have a new IFAD project being prepared and ready for disbursement for the smallholder farmers, especially the communal farmer who are the main interest for IFAD,” he said.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said while government does not have the resources to settle the arrears, it was willing to start negotiations on rescheduling the debt.
“Zimbabwe is a drought prone country we give high priority to irrigation, in particular for smallholder farmers and we would want to be in accommodation with IFAD so that can we unlock new value,” he said.
Chinamasa also said Zimbabwe would make a pledge of $300,000 as a contribution to IFAD’s loan fund.
Last month, Zimbabwe asked for budgetary support from the West for the first time in a decade at a meeting of Western diplomats and international lenders.