HARARE, Mar 20 – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Thursday called for foreign aid to revive his nation’s shattered economy and urged Washington and Brussels to end "cruel" sanctions on his inner circle.,
"I on behalf of the inclusive government and the people of Zimbabwe say, friends of Zimbabwe please come to our aid," Mugabe said at the launch of a new economic recovery plan prepared by the month-old unity government.
"To the European Union and the United States, I appeal for the removal of your sanctions which are inhumane, cruel and unwarranted."
"We also wish to appeal to all those countries which wish us to succeed to support our national endeavour to turn around our economy," he added.
The European Union and the United States maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle in protest at controversial elections and alleged human rights abuses by his government.
Although his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister in a unity government last month, western countries say they will maintain the sanctions until the 85-year-old leader proves he is ready to reform.
Zimbabwe’s once-dynamic economy has been crushed by world-record hyperinflation and the collapse of farming, mining and manufacturing.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s top aide, slashed the government budget by nearly half on Wednesday, saying that revenues would be 43 percent lower than predicted just two months ago.
Tsvangirai has asked neighbouring countries for two billion dollars to help jump-start the economy, but has said that a total of five billion dollars would be needed to put the country back on track.
African Development Bank chief economist Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, who attended the presentation, said that the document "showed an attempt to project a unity of purpose" by the new government.
"The five billion dollar bail-out might sound like a lot of money, but it is the right amount for a for a country like Zimbabwe," he said.
Mugabe did not say how much aid Zimbabwe wanted, as he launched the Short-term Emergency Recovery Progamme (STERP) in a ceremony at a Harare hotel.
"The successful implementation of STERP will indeed require a substantial amount of resources… We hope these will be forthcoming," he said.
Mugabe said that Zimbabwe needed to move away from "divisive and distractive activities and devote ourselves to a constructive and beneficial socio-economic reconstruction programme."
The wide-ranging scheme calls for reviving agriculture, which has been devastated following Mugabe’s chaotic land reform programme, as well as mining, manufacturing and tourism.
Mugabe said the programme would involve lifting price controls, which have been blamed for undermining manufacturing as the president tried unsuccessfully to battle inflation by mandating prices below the cost of production.
"We thus envisage a giant step towards economic stabilisation," Mugabe said at the ceremony attended by Biti and other officials from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The economic blueprint said that the government would stop measuring inflation in Zimbabwe dollars and use foreign currency instead. No inflation estimate has been published since the last figure of 239 million percent in July.
The local currency, which was being printed in larger denominations every few weeks, has now disappeared from the streets since dollars and rands were legalised in January.
The South African rand would be the currency of reference, as the neighbouring country is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner and is expected to one day form the common regional currency.
The document said that the switch to foreign currency could bring inflation down to 10 percent by the end of the year.
Stimulating investment from four percent of gross domestic product to 25 percent would "underpin sustainable economic growth and development," read the document.